WAYNE COUNTY, Ind. -- One of Richmond's largest employers is having trouble finding qualified people to do the work, so the company is taking a risk and giving drug addicts a second chance.
Belden makes cable for industrial businesses.
The company says the number of job applicants who have failed their pre-employment drug screen has tripled in the last two years.
That's one part of Belden's workforce challenge.
The other is one-third of the employees will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.
"We need to increase the labor pool not shrink it. It's hard enough to find qualified manufacturing talent," said Leah Tate, Belden.
So the company brought together a handful of community partners to launch "Pathways to Employment."
"The program is designed to provide them a second chance. An opportunity for employment at the conclusion," said Tate.
Job applicants are referred to a substance abuse treatment provider for an assessment if they fail a drug screen.
"We can't determine whether or not they're going to be a successful employee from that interview. But, if they have a low probability for a substance abuse disorder, our recommendation is that, and then Belden can proceed with their hire," said Tammy Scotten, Centerstone.
Centerstone and other providers create a personalized drug rehabilitation program based on the length of the addiction.
The employee finishes treatment then gets a "safety conscious" job at the plant like cleaning.
Providers follow up and conduct random drug tests. After a certain number of clean screens, it's on to operating machinery.
There are eight people in the program. One has dropped out.
"It's their choice to leave, unfortunately. It's not what we want. We want to help people maintain a clean lifestyle; we want to help give them help and an employment opportunity in the end. But we can't force them to participate."
Belden estimates drug rehab is costing an average of $5,000 per person.
Providers bill insurance or help sign up candidates for the Healthy Indiana Plan.
Belden hopes to get state or federal funding to help.
The company is working with Centerstone, Meridian Health Services, Ivy Tech Community College, and Manpower on the initiative.
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