Nirvana Recovery

The Importance of Employment Support for Individuals Recovering From SUD in Arizona

employment plays a critical role in SUD recovery

For individuals in Arizona recovering from substance use disorders (SUD), finding and maintaining employment is a crucial part of the recovery process. A job provides not only a source of income, but also a sense of purpose, a structured routine, and a supportive social network. However, many people with SUD face significant barriers to employment. Providing targeted employment support services as part of a comprehensive SUD treatment program can greatly improve long-term recovery outcomes.

The Impact of SUD on Employment in Arizona

Screening for Substance Use

Substance use disorders take a heavy toll on Arizona’s workforce. According to the NATIONAL SUBSTANCE USE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES SURVEY, Arizona has over 441 treatment centers. And out of those, 95.9% did screening for substance use. 

Nationally, the economic impact is staggering. The National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that illicit drug use accounted for $49 billion in reduced participation in the workforce in 2011. Prescription opioid misuse alone cost an estimated $7.9 billion in lost employment or reduced compensation.

Many individuals with SUD have poor work histories, limited education, criminal records, or co-occurring physical and mental health conditions that make finding and keeping a job challenging. Without stable employment, individuals in recovery are at higher risk of relapse and recidivism.

The Connection Between Employment and Sustained Recovery

A growing body of research shows that employment plays a critical role in SUD recovery. 

“Employment is reported as a top life priority by people in all stages of recovery. These individuals often can and want to work regardless of where they are in the recovery process.”

Studies have found employed individuals in recovery are more likely to demonstrate :

  • Lower rates of recurrence.
  • Higher rates of abstinence.
  • Less criminal activity.
  • Fewer parole violations.
  • Improvements in quality of life.
  • More successful transition from long-term residential treatment back to the community.

A longitudinal study of client outcomes found that “clients who are employed while in treatment are significantly more likely to successfully complete treatment than unemployed clients.” Whether work is paid or volunteer, individuals who work have higher rates of sobriety and lower rates of substance use.

Best Practices for SUD Employment Support Services

Individual Placement and Support

To improve employment outcomes for people with SUD, treatment providers should integrate evidence-based employment support into their continuum of services. The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model is considered the gold standard for supported employment for people with serious mental illness or co-occurring disorders. Key principles include:

  • Focus on competitive employment in integrated work settings. 
  • Rapid job search to capitalize on individual motivation.
  • Personalized benefits counseling.
  • Ongoing, individualized job support without arbitrary time limits.
  • Integration of vocational and clinical services.
  • Attention to individual career preferences.

Besides this, several other studies (shown in the image below) demonstrate the effectiveness of the IPS approach in increasing competitive employment rates and earnings for individuals with SUD.

The Effectiveness of Supported Employment in People with Dual Disorders
Individual Placement and Support for Methadone Maintenance Therapy Patients
Incorporating Individualized Placement and Support Principles into Vocational Rehabilitation for Formerly Incarcerated Veterans

Implementing Supported Employment Programs in Arizona

Expanding access to supported employment services for individuals with SUD will require a collaborative effort among Arizona’s treatment providers, state agencies, and other community stakeholders. 

Key strategies include:

  • Expand training for clinical staff on effective employment support models.
  • Develop partnerships between SUD treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development agencies to leverage resources and expertise.
  • Advocate for expanded Medicaid funding for supported employment services under Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) program.
  • Provide technical assistance to help treatment providers implement high-fidelity employment support programs. 
  • Educate employers on the benefits of hiring people in recovery and developing recovery-friendly workplaces.

The Road to Recovery

With the right combination of treatment, support, and opportunities, long-term recovery from substance use disorders is possible. By prioritizing employment support as part of a whole-person approach to treatment, we can help more Arizonans reclaim their lives and realize their full potential. The benefits extend not only to individuals and families directly impacted by SUD but to Arizona’s economy and communities. 

Investing in effective employment support programs for people in recovery is the right thing to do – it’s also a smart strategy for building a healthier, more productive, and more equitable future for our state.

Furthermore, if you want to delve deeper into the practices and identification of knowledge gaps and implementation challenges, check out the PDF attached below. It has all the necessary details so you don’t miss any information.

author avatar
Nirvana Recovery