PENQUIS - With the economy struggling to survive, Maine businesses simply cannot afford workplace losses due to alcohol and substance abuse. And the harm to our families and communities touches us all. The annual cost of substance abuse in the workplace is estimated in the billions of dollars each year and, in Maine alone, it is over half a billion dollars. In today's economy, employers are looking for ways to reduce costs, including healthcare costs, and to at least maintain, if not increase their goods and services.
Low productivity, workplace injuries, low employee morale, employee illnesses, and poor company image are some of the effects that substance abuse can have on the workplace and can eventually affect the bottom line. The cost in dollars from substance abuse can be at least $10,000 for one employee including days lost to sickness, healthcare costs, ER and hospital costs and hiring and retraining a new employee.
Studies have shown that preventing problematic substance use through an effective alcohol and drug free workplace policy can be an important component in helping reduce both the social and economic costs of substance abuse.
To support a statewide prevention effort, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse has created Workalert. This easy to use online tool found at www.maine.gov/workalert takes the user through a series of questions which help workplaces develop a policy that fits its needs.
This effort is being highlighted as a part of the statewide Alcohol Awareness efforts for April. The Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse worked with Governor Baldacci to declare April as Alcohol Awareness month in Maine, to align with national efforts. It is a time to highlight these issues and seek ways to address them in our communities.
The facts about workplace substance abuse and its cost in Maine may surprise you:
Drug-free workplace programs which include a strong policy make good business sense. These programs help lower recruitment and training costs and worker's compensation costs which result in fewer work-related accidents. Data on cost savings of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) alone shows that, for every dollar spent in preventing problems, there can be a fifteen-dollar savings in dealing with the consequences of performance problems.
Drug-free workplace programs can save employers money due to fewer absences, lower turnover and lower medical claims of employees. These programs also send the message throughout the company, “This company cares about me and my family. This is a good place to work.” Employees who feel valued at work are happier and more productive.
For more info and materials on worksite wellness, help with Workalert, and substance abuse prevention and treatment, contact Community Partnership Specialist Shannon Bishop of the Piscataquis Public Health Council at 564-4184.
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