By Mark Powell
Driving Employees to Recovery
For over 90 years, Belden has manufactured high-end broadcast and industrial cables. Its 700 employees make it Richmond, Indiana’s second-largest employer.
But it recently faced a challenge. With one third of its workforce set to retire within five years, the company wanted to hire new workers to replace them. Richmond deals with the same drug and alcohol misuse issues as the rest of the state. Addiction and opioid deaths in Wayne County increased dramatically over the years, with 91 reported in 2017. The result: 10 percent of those new hires were failing drug screenings. That’s a big problem in a small community with a limited pool of potential workers.
So Belden launched the Pathways to Employment Program in February 2018.
“If an individual fails the pre-employment drug screen, they are sent to an assessment with a health care provider,” explains Dean McKenna, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Belden. “The provider determines the level of risk and treatment path that’s required. People get individualized treatment based on their needs. If they are successful in treatment and commit to a life free of substance misuse, we’ll offer them a job.”
In addition to incoming employees, the program is made available to existing employees.
The 18-month program addresses all types of substances, not just opioids. It is supported by key community partners, including Centerstone of Indiana, Meridian Health Services, Manpower Richmond and Ivy Tech Community College.
“Before the program, if you failed screen, that was it,” McKenna says. “Existing employees now feel comfortable asking for help and can participate in the program without fear of losing their job.”
Of the 30 people who have entered Pathways to Employment, McKenna says three are currently undergoing assessment and treatment; six are in safety-sensitive roles; 12 are in machine operator roles; and nine left the program. “The promise of a job is what they can hang on to as they are going through treatment.”
While many companies often turn a blind eye to drug misuse or lower their drug standards to avoid losing employees, Pathways to Employment retains people in Belden’s workforce while maintaining safety standards and production excellence. The program has worked so well, in fact, it’s being expanded to other Belden plants in Syracuse, New York and Washington, Pennsylvania.
“As much as the program was a business need, it also meets a community need,” McKenna says.
Consider these words from a Pathways to Employment participant: “I really appreciate the opportunity to continue employment with Belden. This program is fantastic as it gives those who have made mistakes a second chance. It provides the support needed to become and remain successful.”
Belden Pathways to Employment was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.