Pilot program to examine substance abuse impact on workplace

Published 8:43 am Monday, January 29, 2018

Business needed to partner

Examining the total health of workers in Boyle County to improve the workforce — that’s the idea behind a grant application, but a business to partner with is needed.

“We were looking for something industrial, but that’s the thing about Total Worker Health, it’s not applicable solely to industrial workplaces,” Brian Borguno said to members of the Safe Communities Coalition of Central Kentucky on Thursday. “It has that flexibility.”

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The Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) is currently considering a plan to be the lead agency on the grant proposal; Borguno taking the lead on writing on the grant application.

He said the grant will come from the Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center.

Using the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Total Worker Health model, Borguno said they plan to specifically find ways to address substance abuse in the workplace.

“The grant will give us the opportunity to go out to a local employer and absorb some costs in implementing the Total Worker Health model to address substance abuse in the workplace,” Borguno said.

“Total Worker Health was originally intended to address exactly that — Total Worker Health,” he said. “The greatest thing about this model is that it is flexible enough to be focused. It’s not an all or nothing. It’s an all or something.”

It’s a proactive approach for employers, by implementing “policies, programs and practices that integrate the protection from work-related safety health hazards, with the promotion of injury and illness prevention off the job,” Borguno explained.

“It’s looking at what happens to the employee inside the workplace, as well as what happens to the employee outside the workplace, and their families,” he said. “NIOSH and the CDC both see this as a way to not only address worker safety, but to address community safety.”

Borguno said they plan to take what they learn and apply it to the community at large.

“We think we have a good strategy to make this work,” he said.

The grant request is $12,000.

“That’s not a lot of money. It is a pilot grant. There are a lot of other grants available, if we prove this works,” Borguno said.

Other grants mean the program could be implemented on a larger scale, too.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, we think, to reach a lot of people. The good thing with what we’re trying to do, one of the benefits that will come out of this — we can apply this to workers here in Boyle County, but we all admit that most of those workers don’t live in Boyle County,” he said. “We could impact, potentially, a pretty big area.”

The money would be used to cover implementation, strategic plan development, training and other resources. Borguno said they would work directly with the employer to put together that strategic plan, which he called one of the hardest parts.

“Part of that training, that education component of Total Worker Health, is that what we teach and educate the managers, supervisors and workers on, hopefully, we expect, will translate to the community,” he said.

The reason it would apply so well with the problem of substance abuse, Borguno said, is “Total Worker Health looks at the fact that work affects health, health affects work. That’s one of the key concepts.”

“A lot of employers over the years have said, ‘Once you leave my doors, you’re out of my hands.’ Well, if that person has a substance abuse issue and they come to work with that substance abuse issue, they are more likely to get hurt on the job. They are more likely to have interpersonal relationship issues. They are more likely to have productivity issues and absenteeism issues and all these others things. It makes sense for employers to look at what happens to their employee not just at work, but outside the walls.”

Borguno said they plan to work with as many low-cost or no-cost options that are available, such as the Boyle County Health Department, Bluegrass.org and others, since those are resources that exist already.

“We’re going to get local resources,” he said.

They are currently working to identify what those key resources could be and what could be needed.

The pilot program will focus on two or three key “measurables” out of a list of five that could be impacted by substance abuse in the workplace: absenteeism, injuries or accidents, productivity, positive drug test results, Employee Assistance Program usage (where employees get help with stress, financial issues and other personal problems).

He said officials with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Safety Council and others are excited about the idea and have offered their support.

The grant application opens in February and is expected to close in April or May. Borguno said they would find out by June if they have been awarded any money.

But first, they need a local employer to agree to allow the pilot in their business.

“We need someone to sign on formally, and say, ‘Yes, we will do this,’” he said.

Borguno said they spoke to a local company that was very excited about the project, but is already involved in several of its own for 2018 and wouldn’t be able to implement it this year. They are looking for a business of about 50-150 employees to introduce the pilot program.

Kathy Miles, director of ASAP, said they were interested in the idea because it is another effort at prevention in the community and a chance to work with a population the agency hadn’t reached yet, but the board hasn’t yet voted on the grant.


Businesses interested in working on the pilot can contact Brian Borguno at (859) 685-5095.