Opioid hub meeting focuses on finding jobs for those in recovery

The complexity of the lives of recovering addicts and the agencies responsible for them became clearer at a meeting of the Washington County Opioid Hub subcommittee on workforce held Friday.

The meeting, held in the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce offices on Front Street, was attended by about 15 people from several agencies involved in the hub effort, along with chamber executive director Carrie Ankrom.

The workforce subcommittee is tasked to develop ways to help people recovering from opioid use disorder get jobs. Work is a key element in keeping those in recovery actively engaged in society and purposeful, making relapse less likely.

Groups represented at Friday’s meeting included treatment providers Rigel Recovery, Oriana House and Life and Purpose Services, the Washington County Career Center and Washington State Community College, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the county office of Ohio Job and Family Services.

The group started by addressing how to determine when people under treatment for addiction are ready to seek jobs.

Janice McFarland, director of clinical services for L&P, said the treatment organization assesses each client individually, and the point of readiness to go into the workforce varies widely. Cues include honesty and open-mindedness, she said.

“For us, it’s a gut feeling, a bunch of abstract things, but concretely, they need to demonstrate honesty,” she said. “There are people who have been in our program a year and they’re still not ready, while others are ready after only several weeks.”

McFarland pointed out that although work is an important element in recovery, it is the recovery itself that is the primary concern.

Those who come into recovery programs by court orders or agreements – and most of those about whom the Opioid Hub is concerned do – have a complex of obligations to fulfill, including community service hours, recovery treatment and counseling appointments, probation reporting requirements; some have parenting classes or other family-related prescriptive duties, and most need to figure out ways to pay court costs and fines. Others have child support obligations or need to meet state work requirements to get food stamps for themselves or their families.

“For someone who is in active addiction, with intensive outpatient therapy, how could that person even manage a job?” said Eric Brockmeyer of Oriana House.

The agencies themselves have difficulty communicating about their clients’ obligations and schedules.

“It would be of benefit if we knew from the other agencies what we’re up against,” Brockmeyer said. “There’s a lack of communication.”

“The coordination of care among agencies needs to be drastically improved,” McFarland said.

Education also entered the discussion. Brockmeyer, asked about the education level of his residents at Oriana House, said that of the 42 people under treatment there, 15 lacked high school-diploma level education.

Anna Hanes of the Washington County Career Center talked about the Aspire program, which offers free classes in basic job skills and preparation for high school equivalency exams and can be attended through video links.

Discussion about connecting recovering addicts with employers centered around starting with a small group that might help determine what employers are looking for.

“Maybe you could start with the top 10 employers in the chamber, get their feedback,” Ankrom, the chamber executive director, suggested.

The group agreed to meet again at 2:30 p.m. March 4 at the business incubator office.

After the meeting, Job and Family Services deputy director Michelle Brown said businesses will be “crucially important” to the hub’s mission.

“The key is the employers, they’re the only ones who have the credibility to explain the successes of the program,” she said. “Jobs can provide a sense of purpose, offer financial stability, especially if they’re jobs that are meaningful for the clients.”

Ankrom said most members of the chamber probably aren’t familiar with many of the programs that can assist them and the clients of the Opioid Hub.

“The chamber can help connect these organizations to our members,” she said. “For businesses, workforce is the No. 1 issue, straight across the board.”

The Opioid Hub

•Subcommittees: Treatment, education and prevention, workforce.

•Established by state in 2017 budget to combat opioid addiction.

•Washington County hub established in spring 2018.

•Report to state due in spring 2020.

Source: Washington County Job and Family Services.