Workplace prevention program could help combat substance abuse

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) - East Tennessee State University is working with area leaders and businesses to combat and prevent substance abuse through a workplace prevention program.

Angela Hagaman, the director of operations for the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Team Awarness, said it is clear northeast Tennessee needs more help combating the opioid epidemic. "We all know that we're having a terrible time with this epidemic in our region and in our state," Hagaman said. "Employers keep coming to their elected officials, talking about the difficulty in having a vaible workforce."

But she believes and evidence-based prevention program called Team Awareness could help change the tide. The program teaches people about stress management and how to talk to and encourage co-workers to get help before potential problems start.

Hagaman said, "A lot of times supervisors don't want to be in other people's business and they don't want to guess what's happening so they don't have the skill set to talk about it so it teaches the how to talk about it. If we have the skills to get help early on before failing drug tests, before needing treatment and we're talking about it in a different way and we're not ignoring it and we're learning how to help people I think the impact is going to be enormous."

The center partners with Insight Alliance to teach employees about the program and techniques to help co-workers, including encouraging them to seek help through the employee assistance program. Insight Alliance Director Jennifer Berven said, "Often it's when people are under stress that they move rowards self-medication and using subtances to help them cope." Berven said the idea is to catch issues before they get out of control. "The first thing to do is just to let them know you recognize something is going on and you want to help. Is there anything you can do? You don't have to know the why. You don't have to know what's going on," she said.

A Team Awareness training session and online modules are planned for spring and summer. Businesses interested in more information should reach out to Insight Alliance at jenn@insightalliance.org or contact the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment at HAGAMAN@mail.etsu.edu.

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