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Substance Abuse and Mental Health at Work

Addressing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

What do technology and mental health have in common? They’re both on the rise and intersecting to improve the way we receive medical services. Telehealth is a new and trending approach to modern medicine, so it should come as no surprise that telerehabilitation is pushing its way to the virtual medical services platforms.

Substance abuse in the workplace can certainly endanger employees, especially if left untreated. According to the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Health, roughly 1 in 10 U.S. employees struggle with substance abuse and/or dependence annually, resulting in healthcare costs and work-related expenses averaging a whopping $276 million annually.1 One in five adults will not seek professional help.2

Employers can significantly reduce costs by effectively identifying, addressing, and preventing such conduct, as well as developing a substance abuse program. The substance abuse programs can incorporate telerehabilitation to encourage anonymity, engagement in professional mental health services, and provide education and additional resources for managing such health issues.

Develop a substance abuse program. The first step is recognizing mental health issues in the workplace and identifying the extent to which it impacts your employees. Developing a substance abuse program can provide many advantages for the wellbeing of your employees. It offers professional mental health services, additional resources, and continued support and education on mental health issues.

Incorporate a telerehabilitation service. Substance abuse disorders can be incredibly sensitive subjects, therefore providing a telerehabilitation service can encourage those suffering from such issues to seek help because it can help retain a sense of anonymity for the employee to feel comfortable seeking help.

Build a culture of acceptance. One way to build such a culture is to incorporate diversity and team-building activities to encourage inclusivity. Hosting employer-provided lunches, after-hours activities, weekly meetings to discuss workflow processes and projects are all ways to open honest dialogues about work and personal struggles. Building a culture of acceptance can lead to increased productivity, decrease absenteeism, and increased employee retention.

Find health insurance plans that cover mental health services. Another great way to incorporate mental health awareness, prevention, and treatment is to thoroughly review health insurance plans to ensure they cover mental health services or at minimum, offer the option. From in-patient to out-patient care, it is important to explore all available services and determine which ones are best suited for your employees.

Distribute helpful resources. There are plenty of national helplines for mental health-related crises. Crisis Text Line, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Helpline, and other crisis services are available on national and local levels. Ensuring these types of resources are available to those suffering from substance abuse disorders can assist in preventing and treating such issues.

Mental health and substance abuse in the workplace can be delicate, complex issues that need to be handled with the utmost care to avoid lawsuits and/or other liabilities that may result if such situations are not handled properly. Human resources management can provide industry insights to ensure you remain within compliance, address any safety and risk management issues, and handle the HR intricacies that come with an employee undergoing treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Contact Harbor America to ensure that your employee handbook and policies remain in compliance. We understand the importance of employee wellbeing and can work to tailor our employee benefits and HR services to meet your unique business needs.


1 Substance Use Disorder

2 Mental Health in the Workplace

Source: Benefits Insights: Telerehabilitation