New Hampshire Employers Reach Out To Recovery Community

By Paul Fuhr 11/28/17

The state boasts the third-lowest unemployment figures in the country, which motivates employers to acknowledge those in need of a second chance.

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man in suit pushing apply here button

For many people in recovery, job opportunities aren’t easy to find. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, employers in the state of New Hampshire are now “willing to look beyond gaps in resumes, criminal records and messy pasts” to fill job positions.

It’s both a ray of hope and a sign that societal stigmas around addiction are continuing to crumble. A unique “recovery-friendly job fair” held in Portsmouth catered to “people climbing out of addiction,” the Journal reported.

Interestingly, while New Hampshire has been hammered hard by the opioid epidemic, it boasts the third-lowest unemployment figures in the country. With a jobless rate of 2.7% (along with Colorado and Nebraska), it’s become “hard for employers to find the workers they need to expand,” the WSJ observed, which makes for “a dynamic that can potentially boost wages and inflation.” Put simply, the state can’t afford to ignore people who are genuinely looking for a second chance.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told the WSJ that nearly 15,000 people recovering from opioid addiction have been “sidelined from the workforce.” It’s a number that’s as eye-opening for outsiders as it is encouraging for employers. “We want to re-instill that level of self-worth that so many people in recovery have lost,” Sununu said. “We need those able-bodied working adults. We need that workforce in the state.”

US News & World Report noted that the Granite State is “Ground Zero for opioids,” ranking only behind West Virginia in terms of opioid-related deaths. (The state also has the nation’s highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita.)

Between February and June 2016, opioids caused the amount of ER visits to spike 70%, with twice as many fatal drug overdoses occurring in 2016 than just three years earlier.

In many ways, New Hampshire has suffered something of a perfect storm when it comes to its sad statistics. US News & World Report argued that the state has the second-lowest rate of spending on drug treatment and prevention, not to mention a “rural context [that] promotes the spread of opioid use because there are such tight-knit communities where drug use is a social phenomenon.”

Still, public officials believe the state’s employers would do well to explore the untapped potential of people in recovery. After all, employment is “an essential part of recovery… [as it] improves the chances that addicts will stay sober,” the WSJ noted.

Employment is also significantly less of a drain on public funding. Gov. Sununu’s office is currently putting the finishing touches on a program that will “certify willing New Hampshire businesses as ‘recovery-friendly.'” The state is also preparing to launch a website in support of job seekers in recovery as well as offering special training to any businesses that participate in the program. 

New Hampshire, however, isn’t alone in its approach to fill job openings with people in recovery. States like Massachusetts, Tennessee and Ohio are already piloting similar programs, according to the WSJ.

In October, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a multi-pronged plan called Recovery Ohio, which featured an initiative to offer incentives for businesses to hire people in recovery.

“It’s a win-win,” DeWine said. “It helps employers who can’t find workers and helps people who, as part of their recovery, really need to get back to work.”

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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