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Bonuses proposed for employers who hire workers in drug recovery

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania has expanded access to fentanyl test strips as well as anti-overdose drugs in recent years to combat the opioid crisis. Now, the legislature is also considering a more hands-on approach to connecting opioid users to jobs and training.

A bill proposed by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, would create a Recovery to Work Pilot Program to connect people in recovery with workforce development boards. A common concern for someone dealing with a drug addiction is finding stable housing and a job to pay for basic needs.

“An often-overlooked characteristic of this epidemic is the vicious cycle that many individuals with a history of a substance use disorder fall into when trying to find, secure and maintain steady employment,” Langerholc said in a press release. “We urgently need to break this cycle and I believe Recovery to Work can help.”

Spearheaded by the Department of Labor & Industry, a number of state agencies would collaborate to make a plan for local workforce boards to connect with treatment and recovery groups and employers to offer jobs and training to individuals in recovery, the release noted.

Funding for the pilot would come from money in the state’s Reemployment Fund, money appropriated to the department for similar job-training or employment uses, and money that’s provided to any participating agency for Recovery to Work uses, according to language in the bill, Senate Bill 69. Money could also come from the opioid settlement trust fund.

Pennsylvania has almost two dozen local workforce development boards under the Department of Labor & Industry; boards would have to apply to the Recovery to Work program for grant money. Seven local boards would be chosen for the pilot in the first year. The Department of Labor & Industry would have the authority to terminate the pilots and also set the metrics for how they will be evaluated.

To get employers involved, any business that hires someone in the Recovery to Work program would get a $1,250 incentive payment for meeting certain conditions.

The bill isn’t the only addiction-related proposal in the General Assembly. In May, Sens. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, would mandate rehab and involuntarily commit a person into a rehab program after they have been revived three times from a drug overdose, as The Center Square previously reported.

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