Rhode Island joins recovery-friendly workplace initiative

March 27, 2018 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Rhode Island is joining a New Hampshire initiative to provide training and resources to companies that are willing to hire and work intentionally with people in recovery for substance abuse.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced the “Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative” in January, and it officially launched earlier this month. On Tuesday, he said New Hampshire will provide matching websites, logos and guidance to other states that want to join the effort and that Rhode Island already is on board.


Sununu said it’s about dignity for workers and profit for businesses, and that those concepts are not mutually exclusive.

“There’s a lot of money to be made for the fiscal conservatives out there. If you’re purely about profit, this is the program for you. If you’re about doing something to help a state that is in a major crisis, this is the program for you. If you’re an employee looking to get back into the workplace, this is the program for you,” he said. “That’s why I have full confidence it won’t just be successful here in New Hampshire, but it really does and will have the wings to go national.”

About 70 percent of people struggling with addiction are employed, said Greg Williams, vice president of the nonprofit group Facing Addiction. He said he plans to spread the word to governors and business leaders across the country.

“Yes, government needs to do more on this issue, but the private sector has the biggest stake in all of it,” he said. “Employers, as much as we would want them to get involved from a social cost perspective, they’ve been slow to the game because they haven’t known what to do with their own employees. This is a huge step forward.”

The program grew out of Sununu’s experience managing a ski area his family owns, and he has frequently described struggling to retain workers because of the state’s opioid crisis. The initiative launched March 1 with 12 early-adopters ranging from Walmart to the state of New Hampshire. Since then, another 16 companies have joined, bringing the total number of employees working for a designated recovery-friendly workplace to roughly 26,000.

Matt McKinney is a workforce development manager at Hypertherm, a Hanover company he said has focused on employee well-being for all of its 50 years in business. It supported him through his own recovery early in his career, he said, and has formalized its commitment in a variety of ways before joining the initiative, including partnering with licensed drug and alcohol counselors.


“I can say with assurance that Hypertherm has and continued to walk the talk as an early adopter,” he said. “The journey and support of recovery is not without challenges, but it is our responsibility as employers to do what we can to help those struggling with addiction. I hope there are many more employers who sign up for this initiative.”

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, said the initiative will help employers be part of the solution and will give people a better chance at a fresh start.

“We’re working hard in Rhode Island to change negative public attitudes about addiction, and I’m proud to be part of this initiative,” she said.