Providing Addiction Treatment Support for Your Employees

The United States is facing an addiction crisis. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while addiction costs employers billions every year in lost productivity.

An effective addiction treatment program is crucial for fighting this problem — and should be part of any workplace health care plan. As part of Addiction Recovery Month, here are some tips for how you can provide this support to your employees:

Offer an Addiction Treatment Program

While addiction may not be on your or your business’s radar, it’s definitely something to consider. Roughly 76 percent of addicts are employed, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Your health insurance plan should have opportunities for employees to get addiction treatment. This involves immediate substance abuse treatment, mental and physical counseling after an incident and long-term rehabilitation.

Small business health plans have to offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation as part of the minimum essential health benefits. If you’re a large employer, this coverage isn’t mandatory, but is still valuable to include — especially as addiction continues to be a growing problem.

Work with a Dedicated Insurer

You need to work with an insurance company that has a suitable network of medical providers trained in addiction treatment. Not all insurance companies have a large enough network, especially in rural areas, so ask your insurer about your options. It also helps to work with an insurer that’s proactive at fighting addiction.

For example, Anthem’s affiliated plans has a prescription drug system that watches out for early signs of abuse, such as someone who fills multiple prescriptions at different locations. The organization is dedicated to providing the latest forms of treatment, including medication-assisted treatment as well as individual and group counseling, and is experimenting with the latest online and telehealth services for support.

Stay Proactive

The earlier you and your employees can start working on a problem, the better. Ideally, you could prevent addiction from ever happening in the first place. Offer regular seminars on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, the warning signs of a developing addiction and risk factors that make an employee more likely to develop an addiction (like family history and genetics).

At the same time, have managers and human resources watch out for signs of a possible problem. That could be employees who begin coming in late, taking extra sick days, showing up looking disheveled or having trouble completing normal tasks they could handle in the past. These are signs of a developing addiction.

This is a chance to express concern in a nonjudgmental manner. Simply point out the facts (“I’ve noticed you’ve been showing up late recently when this was not a problem before”) rather than jumping out and saying the employee has an addiction. Express your concern, and also explain the support resources that are available through your company’s health care program.

Give Employees the Opportunity for Treatment

You want to create a drug-free environment and should not tolerate drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Still, you need to give employees willing to seek treatment an easy way to do so.

Let employees know that if they voluntarily seek treatment, they can get that care anonymously and without consequences for their careers. You want employees to be willing to seek this treatment and not ignore their illnesses. Providing this reassurance will make sure employees use the program you set up.

Be Firm with Those Who Don’t Seek Help

Unfortunately, employees have to be willing to get help before you can do anything for them. You can’t force employees to get necessary treatment.

If you’ve given an employee every opportunity to get help and he or she still hasn’t made an effort, you need to have workplace consequences. That could include a demotion, suspension and even termination if the problem continues to get worse. If he or she doesn’t make the effort to improve, however, you need to prevent the problem from harming your organization and the rest of your workforce.

Employee addiction is as serious as any other disease and needs to be addressed in your benefits package. By following this advice, you can provide the addiction treatment necessary to stop the growing crisis.

David Rodeck is a professional freelance writer based out of Delaware. Before writing full-time, he worked as a health- and life-insurance agent. He specializes in making insurance, investing and financial planning understandable.

COVID-19 Resources: Managing Your Business During a Crisis