Substance abuse and the workplace : a networking programme for employers and out-patient treatment centres
Both employers and out-patient treatment centres are key role players in addressing workplace related substance abuse. On the one hand, employers are directly and indirectly affected by the huge problem of substance abuse. On the other hand, out-patient treatment centres provide, as their core goal, for the treatment of substance abuse and dependency. Due to the extent of the problem of substance abuse, collaborative intervention measures between employers and out-patient treatment centres are essential – especially the involvement of specialists in the treatment of substance abuse. Such a collaboration process requires specific, resolute measures, as well as a structured process in order to ensure sustainability and results. A networking programme that provides the opportunity to implement this collaborative process is proposed. Sound collaborations indeed provide the foundation to establish the networking programme for combating the problem of substance abuse in the workplace. A collaborative effort to address the problem of substance abuse in the workplace requires not only rallying the strengths and resources of both employers and out-patient treatment centres, but also developing a programme with well-defined processes beneficial to both. A qualitative research study by means of a grounded theory approach was conducted to explore how networking between employers and out-patient treatment centres might aid in addressing the problem of substance abuse in the workplace. Article 1 is a literature overview of substance abuse within the workplace and concerns the national directives, legislation requirements and measures of intervention aimed at dealing with the problem. The literature findings reveal clear national directives, legislation requirements and workplace policies, all aimed at providing a well-defined context for employers to manage substance abuse in the workplace. In addition, specialist treatment services are available to assist employers in addressing the problem in the workplace. Internal support structures in the workplace, however, often independently address the problem of substance abuse without involving the specialists. Literature findings indicate, though, that the personnel involved in the internal support structures are often not equipped to deal effectively with the problem. Research findings indicate positive treatment outcomes for employees with substance abuse problems. Statistics, however, indicate that the identification of employees with substance abuse problems is limited and that referrals of employees for treatment are infrequent. Underutilisation of out-patient treatment centres is therefore commonplace. Literature specifically indicates that the majority of employees are moderate drinkers and substance abusers, with only a small number being dependant. It is further indicated that the moderate drinkers and substance abusers account for almost half of the workforce. The critical factor, however, is that these categories of drinkers cause the majority of industrial accidents and are also responsible for the highest absenteeism rate. Prevention measures, sensitising the entire workforce to the early signs and dangers of substance abuse, facilitate the achievement of the best results in combating the problem. With an eye towards this, national directives advocate the following: intensified campaigns to educate people regarding the early signs and dangers of substance abuse, comprehensive prevention measures and increased rehabilitation efforts. Literature identified a limitation to effectively address substance abuse in the workplace, a problem catered for by specialist treatment centres. Article 2 reports the findings of a situation analysis regarding both the concerns and problems of employers and out-patient treatment centres, as well as resources needed to combat substance abuse in the workplace. Representatives from the employment sector, and out-patient treatment centres, participated in the situation analysis. Employees involved in substance abuse treatment programmes also participated in the study. A specific limitation, identified during the situation analysis, was the limited knowledge regarding the negative consequences of substance abuse in general. An unsupportive workplace environment, with regards especially to substance use and abuse, was also identified. Though empirical findings reported the existence of support structures in the workplace, these structures were found to be incapable of dealing with the problem. In the event of substance misconduct, employers are legally obligated to provide treatment and rehabilitation before considering dismissal; however, employers perceived these obligations as additional demands. Employers did not realise the possible benefits of treatment over dismissal. Misinformation and misinterpretation of the legal obligations were also identified during the research study. The stand against the problem of substance abuse in the workplace revealed a limited collaboration between employers and out-patient treatment centres. Employers were often not aware of specialist treatment centres and the available services. A lack of marketing and visibility – on the part of out-patient treatment centres – and an indifference and lack of support in the workplace were regarded as some of the causes for the limited collaboration between employers and out-patient treatment centres. Both ignorance in the workplace about the scope of substance abuse and a general lack of knowledge regarding the problem were identified as further limiting factors. A need for collaboration between employers and out-patient treatment centres was identified, especially if the problems of substance abuse in the workplace were to be successfully addressed. The development of a networking programme for employers and treatment centres was recommended and the core components to establish such a programme were identified. Article 3 discusses the components which were identified during the situation analysis and presents guidelines to develop a networking programme for employers and out-patient treatment centres. The components identified by the participants served as framework for the proposed networking programme. The programme comprises a specific purpose namely collaboration between employers and out-patient treatment centres, specific characteristics to sustain the programme, and the implementation of distinguishable procedures to establish and ensure sustainability of the programme. The purpose of the networking programme is to promote, between employers and out-patient treatment centres, a collaboration that will address the problem of substance abuse in the workplace. Involvement in the programme holds significant potential benefits for all relevant role players; the programme, in other words, advocates benefits for employers, employees and out-patient treatment centres. The proposed networking programme includes specific procedures for establishing and sustaining the programme: Firstly, assessing the limitations, needs and strengths of both the employment sector and out-patient treatment centres; secondly, establishing a network agreement that defines the roles and responsibilities of the role players; thirdly, collectively planning the networking activities and implementation of these plans; and, finally, collaboratively evaluating the impact and effectiveness of the programme. The aforementioned procedures also apply to both the evaluation of the limitations and progress of the treatment programmes, as well as to the evaluation of service delivery of the treatment centres. As it enables the revision of plans that provide individualised services, the continuous reassessment of the limitations and strengths of the networking programme is important. Out-patient treatment centres are considered responsible for initiating the networking programme. Effective collaboration between employers and out-patient treatment centres, as well as quality service delivery by the treatment centres, is regarded as critically important. Ultimately, the networking programme – regarded as a collaborative process between employers, employees and out-patient treatment centres – promotes a partnership geared towards combating the problem of substance abuse in the workplace. The researcher concluded the study with the formulation of a theory regarding the development of a networking programme as its end goal. Also, it is hoped that both out-patient treatment centres and the employment sector (employers and employees) may benefit from it in practice. Eventually, the proposed networking programme was based on the data collected from the situation analysis in this study, the researcher’s experience as a counsellor in substance abuse treatment and her exposure to different networking programmes, as well as supportive theoretical knowledge. A guideline for application of the networking programme in practice is included in the study alongside examples of projects to apply the programme.
- Humanities