Governor Chris Sununu announced Tuesday he is taking his Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative nationwide, starting with Rhode Island.
New Hampshire is one of the hardest hit states by the opioid addiction crisis and the initiative was launched to empower workplaces to provide support for people recovering from substance use disorder.
Governor Sununu called on Governors nationwide to adopt the initiative. He has pledged that New Hampshire will provide the website, logos and framework guidance.
The announcement took place inside the Statehouse in Concord attended by business leaders, recovery advocates, and state officials.
Sarah Rawlins was one of those people. She's in long term recovery. She knows how hard it is to keep a job when struggling with addiction. She was fired for not showing up because of her habit.
"I came back years later and asked to be heard about what was going on with me back then and they gave me my job back," Rawlins said. At the time she was working for the Chameleon Group in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Now Rawlins helps people in recovery get jobs as a Supportive Employment Specialist at Granite Pathways.
"I started bringing in people from recovery communities for work so within nine months we had brought in 30 people," Rawlins said.
Rawlins efforts are something Governor Sununu says he's commited. "We have to be there for them. You have businesses all over the state, you have the state of Rhode Island now joining us.
Employers who have adopted the initiative had some of their workers in long-term recovery speak at the press conference, including Rawlins.
Marianne Perna credits Rawlins with helping her get back in the workforce.
"We talked about if I needed a hair cut and clothing forinterviews, because these are obstacles that happen," Perna said. "You know a person in early recovery doesn't have those."
"If someone has cancer and they go to their employer and say I have cancer, the immediate response is oh my gosh that’s terrible, how can I help," Rawlins said. "We have to look at addiction the same way."
To date, Rawlins said she has helped 100 people get jobs, and 74 people are still currently working.
According to Governor Sununu's office, since the original launch on March 1, the list of early adopters has more than doubled in New Hampshire.
Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare and the New Hampshire Hospital Association are a part of 16 additional companies who have signed on as early adopters, joining the 12 original organizations like the State of New Hampshire, Walmart and Turbocam. With these 28 early adopters, the total number of employees who work for a Recovery Friendly Workplace is now roughly 26,000 people.