AP NEWS

Missouri company to help job applicants overcome drug use

May 18, 2018

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Failing a drug test no longer means losing the chance at landing a job at Belden’s plant in Richmond, Indiana, about 70 miles east of Indianapolis.

Instead, the Clayton-based company offers the promise of a job if applicants are successful in a program aimed at ending their drug use.

About two years ago, the company, which manufactures cable, routers and other communications equipment, began noticing an increase in failed drug tests among applicants who made it to the end of the interview process.

“We’ve seen almost a tripling in failed drug screenings,” said Leah Tate, vice president of human resources for Belden.

Between 10 percent and 15 percent of those who are considered for employment fail a drug test, and there is concern that the percentage is going to continue to rise, said Dean McKenna, senior vice president of human resources for Belden.

At the same time, Belden’s flagship plant is experiencing a significant uptick in retirements, creating a greater demand for labor.

The company began experiencing issues filling jobs because of retirements, which was then compounded by the rise in failed drug tests.

Belden leaders decided they needed to intervene and felt a responsibility to Richmond, where the plant has been located since 1928.

“We understand the impact opioids have had on the Richmond community,” Tate told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . “Frankly, as an employer, we need to expand the labor market, not shrink it.”

The plant is an important institution in the town of about 36,000 residents. It’s the second-largest employer in Wayne County with a total of about 750 employees, 450 of whom work at the plant, Belden’s largest in the U.S.

Applicants who fail a drug test are given the option to enter a program that first assesses whether they have a high or low probability of having a substance-use disorder. From there, Belden’s two medical partners tailor a treatment program for the individual.

Applicants who are determined to have a low probability will likely go through some classes and receive some education on substance abuse disorders. Those who are considered to have a high probability go through more intense treatment, Tate said.

As they complete the program, they are slowly introduced to their job in the plant and must pass a series of drug tests over a period of time.

“The feedback has been good. I think they view it as a second chance,” Tate said.

Belden has thousands of employees worldwide and has not determined whether it will expand the program to other facilities. But the company is considering it for its several dozen locations around the world.

Dr. Mitch Rosenthal, who helped design the overall program, said Richmond is similar to many communities across America struggling with addiction issues, which have been partly fueled by the overprescribing of painkillers.

He is the founder of Phoenix House, a national nonprofit drug treatment organization, and is the president of The Rosenthal Center for Addiction Studies in New York City.

Programs like this help because many people abusing drugs don’t wake up one day and realize there is a problem.

Usually people need to be encouraged or even coerced into getting help, Rosenthal said.

And from there they “start to find out more about themselves and the reason they were taking drugs, and they become much more self-enlightened and they get to a position where they can sustain that recovery.”

“I bet it builds tremendous goodwill,” Rosenthal said. “It will become a good community story and people will have affection and respect for the company for doing such an enlightening and compassionate thing.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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