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STATEWIDE — There are more available jobs in Indiana than there are worker to fill them.

A good problem to have, said Mike Thibideau, the state’s director of Indiana Workforce Recovery. But, one thing that is keeping Hoosiers from filling those jobs is drug abuse, especially when it comes to the opioid epidemic. 

That’s why he tells Inside Indiana Business state lawmakers passed a bill in the 2018 session that is finally being rolled out this year. The new law creates a set of guidelines for employers to follow, if they choose to do so, in order to successfully hire someone with a recent history of drug addiction.

“It lays out a process that employers can follow and if they adhere to that process they’ll receive liability protections,” Thibideau said. “They’ll also have the ability to participate in other programs such as wage assignments in the event that they decide to pay for part or all of an employee’s treatment but want to have an arrangement with that employee to pay that back over time.”

“These types of things are really unique and they’re really important,” he added. “Because they allow people to participate in a best practice process that currently many employers are not participating in around the state and have systems by which employees feel comfortable coming forward in requesting assistance even before the event of a workplace accident or a failed test.”

Thibideau said a recent survey they conducted shows only about 6-percent of Hoosier companies ever consider hiring a person who is qualified for the job they are hiring for but has a history of drug abuse or alcoholism. That’s even if they get clean and come back and are able to pass a drug screen.

“Considering the workforce development challenges and the constant workforce challenges that our employers are facing in the state, they need a best practice system that they can follow in order to engage with that candidate,” Thibideau said.

The new law passed by state lawmakers does just that. Thibideau hopes to conduct the same survey in the next 18 months or so to see if it is working to get more Hoosiers working.

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