Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit Unveiled

By Alana Smart / November 29, 2023 / Blog ,

White House with transparent pills in upper right-hand corner

Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit Unveiled

Substance use and overdoses in the workplace pose significant challenges for employers, affecting millions of Americans and necessitating proactive measures to ensure a safe and supportive environment. Recognizing this pressing issue, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has unveiled the Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit, offering guidance and resources to empower employers in addressing workplace substance use and overdoses.

The Challenge at Hand

The scope of substance use in the workplace is substantial, with 26.9 million Americans aged 18 or older reporting a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2021, with a significant majority (78%) of them are employed full time. To tackle this issue head-on, the ONDCP’s Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit provides essential resources for employers to create a workplace culture that supports employees dealing with substance misuse and those in recovery. The new resources, according to the White House, will help private businesses, non-profits, unions, trade associations, and state, local, and Tribal governments strengthen their workforce and grow our economy while playing a leading role in developing a recovery-ready nation.

The Cost of Workplace Substance Misuse

Substance misuse and addiction not only impact the workforce but also incur significant costs for employers and the broader economy. A 2021 CDC study estimated that opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdose cost the U.S. economy $1.02 trillion in 2017, encompassing health care, criminal justice costs, lost productivity, reduced quality of life, and mortality. Since 2011, workplace overdose deaths have increased by 536%. Overdoses now cause nearly 1 in 11 workers’ deaths on the job.

For each employee in recovery, however, the estimated annual savings to employers range from $1,155 to $8,466 per capita. Additionally, workers in recovery miss almost 14 fewer days each year than workers with an untreated substance use disorder and miss the fewest days overall, with 3.6 less days than the average employee.

Examining the Toolkit

The Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit is more than a guide; it’s a robust resource for employers. It delves into substance use disorder intricacies, offering a nuanced understanding of symptoms, treatments, and external resources.

At its core, the toolkit boasts assessment and implementation checklists, guiding employers in integrating recovery-ready policies practically. It also offers sample statements, conveying commitment to fostering a recovery-ready culture. Employers can leverage these to articulate their stance.

Navigating workplace programs is daunting. The toolkit provides insightful comparisons, empowering informed decisions. In employers’ hands, this toolkit is a catalyst for change, turning aspirations into actions, fostering recovery-ready environments.

Four Pillars of Recovery-Ready Workplaces

The Recovery-Ready Workplace (RRW) policies rest on the acknowledgment that SUD is a health problem. Employers play a crucial role in prevention, access to care, and reducing stigma.

Creating a RRW isn’t a vague concept—it’s a strategic plan anchored in four pillars:

  1. Prevention and Risk Reduction:
    • Strategies to cut substance misuse risks, covering workplace injuries and the careful use of opioids for pain treatment.
    • Actionable steps can include reviewing and updating policies or tapping into existing health and wellness programs.
  2. Training and Education:
    • Empowering your workforce with knowledge, including substance use disorder (SUD) and recovery literacy.
    • Addressing substance use policies and highlighting the benefits of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) is important.
  3. Hiring and Employment:
    • Active recruitment of individuals in recovery, breaking down employment barriers for a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
    • Building a culture that supports hiring practices focused on recovery.
  4. Treatment and Recovery Support:
    • More than just providing access to addiction treatment—it’s about being a robust support system for employees on their recovery journey.
    • Initiatives like peer mentoring through volunteer efforts or supporting the establishment of employee resource groups for recovery-focused activities can assist employees in recovery.

Strategies for Risk Reduction

To address risks tied to substance use in the workplace, employers are advised to review and update policies, evaluate opioid use for pain treatment, address social factors that may heighten substance misuse risk, and scrutinize alcohol-related policies during work-related activities. The toolkit emphasizes that “reviewing and updating policies, procedures, and practices” is pivotal to reducing the risk of injuries linked to substance misuse.

Central to fostering a supportive workplace culture is effective communication between managers and employees. Employers are encouraged to engage in open dialogues about substance misuse and SUDs. It is essential for cultivating an environment where employees feel heard, understood, and supported.

A Unified Approach

The National Safety Council (NSC) recently launched their own Respond Ready Workplace program. Geared towards curbing workplace overdoses, the initiative focuses on supporting naloxone availability, providing training, and offering support resources. They have expressed their support for the Recovery-Ready program, saying it directly aligns with their efforts.

The White House has also introduced a novel legislative framework for state legislators. This model law proposes the establishment of a certification program for employers as recovery-ready workplaces, promoting policies for a wholesome work environment. If embraced by state legislatures, the legislation further outlines incentives such as tax credits and stipends for certified employers, along with the initiation of grant programs aimed at advancing recovery-ready workplaces.

A Healthier, Compassionate Workforce

As employers navigate the complexities of substance use in the workplace, the Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit is a valuable resource. It offers guidance, education, and strategies to create environments that prioritize employee well-being and support those on the journey to recovery. Beyond the immediate benefits for individuals, these initiatives hold the potential to positively impact businesses’ bottom lines and contribute to a healthier, more compassionate workforce.


Ready to elevate your workforce’s health? Partner with NMS Health for your occupational health screenings. With NMS Health you are not just identifying, intervening, and preventing future illness, you’re investing in a safer, healthier future for your team. Get started today!

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