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Last updated: March 01. 2014 6:32PM - 1244 Views
By Heather Rutz hrutz@civitasmedia.com



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LIMA — As human resources managers for a staffing company, Stacey Buerger and Amanda Elwer thought they had a solid, comprehensive drug-free workplace plan.


“We did not,” said Elwer, with Spherion.


Managing policies for a large company with 11 offices in Northwest Ohio, Elwer said she came to realize the company had a thin policy, inconsistency and guesswork among offices, and uncertainty when a senior manager wasn’t available to answer a question.


The company went through a program offered by Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties that took companies willing to participate in a pilot to develop plans.


“We came in with two pages and left with a binder,” Elwer said.


The mental health board collaborated with partner Working Partners, a nonprofit that helps companies with drug-free workplace issues. The two created a pilot program for five employers. The offer was that the mental health board paid for drug-free workforce policy development and some training for staff; the company paid for some training and the employees paid for any needed intervention and treatment provided by the behavioral health system.


Spherion, Wright Distribution, the city of Lima, Crossroads Crisis Center and Partnership for Violence Free Families went through the program, mental health board Executive Director Mike Schoenhofer told a group of executives this week at an event sponsored by Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.


Schoenhofer said his group wants to sign up another round of companies to go through the process. The pilot developed out of a request from the chamber and Allen Economic Development Group to help companies that were losing good employees to substance and mental health issues and not being able to find them in the first place because potential employees couldn’t pass drug screens.


Each company has specific needs, and a policy is tailored to that need, Schoenhofer said. Also, it’s done with a bottom line in mind, for social service agencies and business.


“What’s in it for us? We typically get people when they’re going through the criminal justice system, and we have to recreate their lives,” Schoenhofer said. “What if we could catch them when they still have jobs, still have family supports?”


Also, companies don’t lose good money on training someone new, for example, when an employee has to be fired for an addiction, or worse.


Substance abuse affects absenteeism, productivity, medical claims, theft, workers’ compensation claims and a company’s liability and public image, Schoenhofer said.


“I’m not asking you to be a social worker,” Schoenhofer said. “I have lots of those. This is business focused.”


Wright Distribution’s human resources and safety manager Mark Conwell said the company places a priority on employees’ safety.


“We can’t do anything if we’re not safe,” Conwell said. “Safety is a part of our business and culture.”


Wright is going to use the training Conwell received and develop policies for the other businesses in the chain that owns Wright, Conwell said.


Karen Grothouse, vice president of sales and operation at Spherion, said she believes the program will be an economic development tool and selling point for companies interested in locating in Allen County. The issue of substance abuse is huge these days, as it relates to workforce development.


“When people find out all of these folks are working together on an issue like this, it will be a huge asset to the county,” Grothouse said.


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