Gov. Chris Sununu launched New Hampshire’s Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative in 2018. (Screenshot)
Gov. Chris Sununu joined the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on Wednesday in announcing new resources to support recovery-friendly workplaces across the country, including a national nonprofit dedicated to the cause.
Sununu launched New Hampshire’s “Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative” in 2018, designed to empower businesses around the state to support individuals with substance use disorders. Since the program’s inception, 350 Granite State businesses have been designated as “recovery friendly workplaces,” encompassing nearly 100,000 employees.
The work done in New Hampshire will continue expanding nationwide. Announced Wednesday, Sununu will serve as the honorary board chair of the National Recovery Friendly Workplace Institute, what he described as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan effort” that will be housed in the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation.
Simultaneously, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released new guidance and a call to action: a toolkit for employers and a ready-made state model law to assist in creating recovery-ready workplaces across the nation.
“Research tells us that obtaining and maintaining a job is a critical part of any recovery journey,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Speaking during a White House press call, Sununu described how his journey with recovery-friendly workplaces began long before he was governor. While leading Waterville Valley ski resort as its CEO, he had employees who grappled with addiction. He likened firing them because of their struggles to “sending them back to the wolves.”
“I realized that the best solution was to be part of that healthier pathway for them, to be part of their recovery,” Sununu said. “That allowed me to keep them as an employee, allowed them to get better. It allowed individuals to feel more emboldened to stand up and face what they were dealing with.”
Sununu cited financial savings as a result, and a “team-building effort” that ultimately coalesced around it.
When he became governor, Sununu decided to implement the model statewide. As part of the program, administered by Granite United Way in partnership with the governor’s office and state, recovery-friendly advisers support interested businesses with evidence-based practices to develop and sustain the initiative in their workplaces. The goal is to eliminate stigma and foster an environment that encourages the success of employees in recovery.
The model can increase productivity and morale, build community connection, and improve communication and support between leadership and employees, the state says.
After the program’s launch in 2018, Sununu encouraged other governors to join him. Rhode Island was the first state to do so.
“One of the most amazing things we discovered when we created this program, all of a sudden the number of people looking for treatment skyrocketed in the state,” Sununu said. “For so long, people were working and couldn’t go to treatment because they were afraid to be seen walking into a treatment center by their employer. Now all of a sudden, people weren’t afraid to go seek treatment. They were talking to their employers about it.”
Gupta called Sununu a “champion among our nation’s governors” when it comes to supporting recovery.
New national resources coming from the Biden-Harris Administration – a toolkit for employers and a state model law – aim to help businesses and state and local governments across the country implement recovery-friendly workplace ideals.
The toolkit is housed in the Department of Labor’s Recovery-Ready Workplace Resource Hub, which was developed to help employers respond more effectively to substance use in the workforce while supporting and hiring people in recovery.
Noted in the toolkit is New Hampshire’s ”community of practice” as part of its Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative, for states and other entities wishing to adopt the New Hampshire approach. The community of practice boasts representation from 35 states and one Canadian province.
The Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association, with funding support from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, developed new model legislation for state governments to support the creation of recovery-ready workplaces. As written, the legislation will establish a program where employers can become designated as recovery-ready workplaces.
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