The Impact of Substance Abuse on Baltimore's Workforce: What is Being Done About It?

Panelists: Joseph T. Jones, Jr., President/CEO, CFWD; Randall Lucas, Human Resources Manager, LSG SkyChefs; Gale Saler, Consultant; former Executive Director, Second Genesis; Frank Satterfield, Executive Director, Glenwood Life

Moderator: Jane Harrison, Senior Program Officer, the Abell Foundation

Jane Harrison introduced the panel and offered the following background information. There are currently over 500,000 Maryland residents who have no health insurance. Most live in the Baltimore metropolitan region, and many are addicted to illicit drugs. Baltimore City has only 7,600 substance abuse treatment slots available to serve this population, which includes a high number of women attempting to enter the workforce. Persons with substance abuse issues who attempt to enter the workforce frequently experience difficulty in finding jobs that can sustain families.

Gale Saler said that in preparing persons with substance abuse issues to enter the workforce, it is important to show them that they have the ability to complete assigned tasks and work as part of a team. The long-term residential treatment model offers providers the opportunity to build in greater workforce development and other rehabilitative services. Ms. Saler said that few opportunities for long-term care exist in Baltimore, particularly for young people.

The Center for Fathers, Families & Workforce Development (CFWD) began in 1993 as an initiative of the Baltimore City Health Department. It serves low-income, non-custodial fathers, of whom 75% face substance abuse issues. Joe Jones described the rigorous three-week employment readiness program which clients undergo. CFWD staff provides follow-up services for two years after graduation from the program. 25% of CFWD staff members are former low-income job seekers, Mr. Jones said.

LSG/SkyChefs is the principal food services provider for airlines at BWI Airport. Randall Lucas said that although for safety reasons employees must be drug free, SkyChefs offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through which employees may receive substance abuse counseling. If an employee fails a random drug test and admits to abusing drugs, he or she is referred to the EAP, which is confidential. Employees can also access the EAP for counseling on financial management and family issues. Randall Lucas described the financial impact of substance abuse on companies like SkyChefs, which pays for drug screening for new employees. At least one out of five new hires fails the pre-employment drug test, Mr. Lucas said.

Glenwood Life provides managed care services to substance abusers and persons with HIV. Frank Satterfield said that one out of five patients who comes for treatment at Glenwood Life tests positive for HIV. Mr. Satterfield said that addicts face significant barriers to securing and retaining employment. Most substance abusers, for example, lack desirable job skills. And individuals participating in a methadone maintenance program are frequently denied employment because they fail pre-employment drug screens. Addicts who are employed, Mr. Satterfield said, fare better in treatment and face a substantially lower risk of relapse than unemployed substance abusers.

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