On January 12, 2023, the Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), along with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, concluded the first phase of its Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW) peer learning series – a four-part virtual workshop for Colorado business leaders. Nominated participants represented a range of industries including healthcare, restaurants, hospitality, construction/utilities, local government, and education.
This effort is part of the RFW Initiative led by the Center in response to the national mental health crisis and substance use epidemic. Addressing this issue in the workplace is a key strategy to support Coloradans struggling with common behavioral health conditions including substance use and addiction. Across multiple avenues, CHWE has and continues to convene executives and business leaders from across the state to be the voice of employers on this issue.
Participants from the peer learning series will become the first to join the RFW Employer Workgroup. This group will represent Colorado employers who are champions for RFW policies and practices to lead the priorities in the state for employer engagement and action. On January 24, 2023, 45 business leaders gathered for a stakeholder meeting to discuss the vision and goals for Colorado’s first group dedicated to this collective effort with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. This group is open to all Colorado employer representatives eager to create policies and supports for employers with employees in recovery.
“We heard from stakeholders representing workforces and employers across the state that supporting employees in recovery is a top priority,” said Lili Tenney, DrPH, director of outreach and programs at CHWE. “Our goal is to build capacity and positive change led by the voice of Colorado businesses and workers.”
These programs are part of a national effort to answer the staggering increase in substance-use, mental health needs, and substance-related deaths in the American workforce. In 2022, CHWE received federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to develop and launch the RFW Initiative. Through the Center’s activities, local tax dollars are at work as employers receive expert advising and actively influence statewide approaches to help employees in recovery at work.
Colorado is steadily increasing access to treatment for opioid and other substance use disorders and ensuring support for people in recovery — of which employment is a critical aspect of. “Recovery friendly workplaces contribute to the individual success as an employee and as a person in recovery,” said José Esquibel, director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Integrating the Consortium and CHWE’s efforts leverages the strengths of both organizations in assisting employers, which also benefits employees.”
On June 8, 2023, CHWE will co-host an event on the University of Colorado (CU) Anschutz Medical Campus with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman. At the event, leaders will review current and future approaches to addressing Colorado’s opioid crisis response and strengthen the combined efforts between public health, employers, and state government. For more information on this event, please visit https://coloradosph.cuanschutz.edu/research-and-practice/centers-programs/chwe/practice/rfwi.
This initiative is supported by funds allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on March 12, 2021. The ARPA distributes funds specifically to state and local governments to aid in COVID- 19 recovery. Additional support from the Grant or Cooperative Agreement Number, U19OH011227, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About the Center for Health, Work & Environment
The Center for Health, Work & Environment is an academic center within the Colorado School of Public Health. The Center is one of 10 Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health® and houses the Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center (MAP ERC), one of 18 centers of its kind supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Center team works with faculty, students, and community partners to advance worker health, safety, and well-being. The Center is committed to develop education, research, and public health practice initiatives that combat the problems of racial and environmental inequity and injustice facing workers. To effectively address the future of work, we aim to ensure a healthier and safer workplace for all. Main offices for the Center are located at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado.
About the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention is the community engagement arm of the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which is housed in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The Center coordinates Colorado’s statewide response to the misuse of medications such as opioids, stimulants, and sedatives. The Center’s mission is to reduce prescription drug misuse and abuse in Colorado by developing policies, programs, and partnerships with state agencies, professional associations, nonprofit organizations, and community coalitions addressing one of the Colorado’s major public health crises.