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Groups discuss employment opportunities for those in addiction recovery

A panel discussion was held virtually this week on employment opportunities for Vermonters recovering from substance abuse disorders.

April is National Second Chance Month and a number of Vermont groups are focusing on what’s called “second chance hiring,” educating business owners about the benefits of hiring those in recovery and helping those individuals find available jobs.

Providing a steady job helps reduce stigmas associated with substance abuse disorders and provides stability for those in recovery.

The efforts are becoming increasingly important as the Vermont Health Department said this month that the state has experienced an increase in opioid and opioid-related deaths over the past two years, with 158 deaths in 2020 and rising to a record 210 in 2021.

Greg Tatro and his wife founded Jenna’s Promise after their daughter Jenna died from an opiate addiction. They have built two recovery homes, are starting a coffee company and working with a local coffee shop to provide employment and apartments for those in recovery in the Johnson area. They took part in the roundtable organized by Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray.

“Through the six years of working with Jenna we realized that housing in a safe place was probably the most important thing. That’s why we started a recovery housing in Johnson. And then the next step is a safe place to work where there’s no alcohol, no drugs. And then the staff, the owners, and businesspeople they also need training too because the first six months of recovery is tough. So they need also need to be around people that are willing to understand that and support that they’re coming out of a pretty deep hole.”

Gardeners’ Supply Vice President of Human Resources Christie Kane was curious how the business can better recruit the individuals seeking jobs.

“How do we reach people and then how do we get our frontline managers and supervisors to really understand the needs of people that we would be hiring? And I would be really interested to see if there are any onsite training that is offered to employers.”

Working Fields is a staffing agency that connects those in recovery with employers. CEO and Founder Mickey Wiles says the best way to find candidates is to form relationships with referring agencies.

“When I say referring agencies I’m talking about treatment centers, recovery centers, sober homes, probation and parole. It’s constantly letting them know what you have to offer and to let people know what your hiring practices are and by having the more open hiring practices and communicating that to the agencies will help bring in more people.”

Greg Tatro interjected:

“You know I think it’d be good if we could almost have a handbook for training for employers because not everybody knows how to deal with people in recovery. And it would work good for both sides – the employer and the employee.”

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