In a major speech this afternoon President Donald Trump will direct his Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency. That will allow changes such as expanded access to medical services in rural areas. The addiction crisis is affecting all sectors from emergency, health and law enforcement to families and counselors. Recently the Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery of Clinton County coalition held a roundtable to discuss the impact of the crisis on business.
Business leaders from across Clinton County met in Plattsburgh to discuss how the opioid crisis is affecting business and how they can help those in recovery.
United Way of the Adirondack Region CEO John Bernardi noted that the true pervasiveness of the crisis is not often realized. "We see that it affects individuals. We see that it affects families. We see that there is a huge affect on the law enforcement perspective and the court system and the treatment side of it. What we don’t always realize is how important and how impactful the issues are to the business community and to the employers. So this is an opportunity to highlight the pervasive nature of substance abuse and heroin and opioids.”
Business leaders had broken into discussion groups and then presented reports on their discussion.
Essex County Drug Court Administrator Brooke Clark found it refreshing that those at her table were willing to embrace people who are struggling with recovery. “They did talk about that they would give them a chance and to really support them in their journey through treatment and hold their job open for them when they came back. But again the overarching theme of just embracing and wanting to work with people with addictions it was not as stigmatized at our table as I thought it would be.”
Dana Isabella, the Champlain Valley Family Center’s Director for Tobacco Free Clinton Franklin Essex Counties, found a common thread between all the discussions. “We discussed the challenges being located in a rural area can have on successful recovery and employment and that employers need more education and support. Who do we go to? Where do we go? What do we do? We discussed the stigma around the disease of addiction and recovery. And this all requires a need for tolerance, understanding and flexibility.”
Following the presentations by the moderators, Jared Croy told his story of recovery. He started drinking when he was 10 and by 15 was using cocaine and opiates. Although treatment worked for him, he struggled to find a job. Now an addiction treatment consultant, he says some progress is being made to break stigmas. “I think we have a long ways to go. I mean you still have plenty of people that think all of that is crap. You know they still think that it’s a choice, right, and addiction is just this thing that you did to yourself. And so with that kind of mentality we’re still seeing a lot of people stuck with that same stigma.”
SPARCC Steering Committee and Coalition member Michael Carpenter said for this initial forum they chose businesses that are predisposed to help because they want to underline that that segment must be a centerpoint of addiction recovery. “The real problem with addiction is we’ve always looked at it in terms of treatment, prevention and never long-term recovery. And in order to have an addict who gets out of treatment and has 6 months, a year or two years of clean time, they have to have gainful employment and a purpose in their life. And there are many barriers to getting these people permanent employment. And so we wanted to have a forum that we could bring employers together with treatment and law enforcement so that employers could talk about the reasons why they do or don’t hire addicts. This problem cannot be eradicated just by treatment. It can’t be eradicated just by law enforcement. It needs a community wide approach.”