Hooksett, NH – Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the National Drug Control Policy, was recently in New Hampshire to lead a roundtable discussion focused on the New Hampshire Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW) Initiative, which was launched by Governor Chris Sununu in 2018 and is administered by Granite United Way in partnership with the State of New Hampshire.
The RFW program challenges the stigma around substance use disorder (SUD) and provides businesses with the tools and resources they need to support those who have been impacted by SUD. Overall, RFWs embrace cultures where employees feel safe and heard, signaling that it is ok to ask for help and encouraging employees to do so before issues progress in severity.
The roundtable discussion, led by Gupta and moderated by Samantha Lewandowski, assistant program director of RFW, convened business leaders from PROCON, Grappone, Chameleon Group, Genfoot America, Inc., and Hypertherm, in addition to representatives from Granite United Way and the State of New Hampshire. Opening remarks from Eliza Zarka, addiction and behavioral health coordinator for the Governor’s Office; Patrick Tufts, president and CEO of Granite United Way; and Gupta; oriented attendees to the shared purpose of their respective efforts and highlighted the collaborative approach that has made RFW successful in New Hampshire.
Hosted by PROCON, the roundtable spanned a variety of topics, including discussion of what RFW is, the challenges the program has navigated, the successes its participating employers have experienced, recommendations for other states, and program needs.
Gupta noted, “Under the leadership of Governor Sununu, New Hampshire had created a pathway to businesses not only helping their employees through the recovery process but improving workplace productivity as well. I learned a lot from the shared discussion today, and I hope to share this knowledge with other states as they join New Hampshire in the fight against addiction by creating recovery friendly workplaces.”
Roundtable attendees were also able to hear a first-hand account of the positive impact RFW had from Shawn Cannizaro, current co-owner of Hope 2 Freedom Recovery Homes. Cannizaro sat next to his former boss, Mark Bonta, plant manager of Genfoot America, Inc., and credited Bonta and Genfoot’s RFW approach with helping him build and sustain his recovery after a decades-long struggle with addiction, saying, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mark and RFW.”
Lewandowski brought the discussion to a close, saying, “I want to thank Dr. Gupta and all the participants for joining us today to share and learn more about the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative and the collaborative efforts New Hampshire is taking to support those impacted by SUD. Special thank you to PROCON for hosting and to each of the businesses present for their leadership in making the initiative a success. We have learned a lot since the launch of the initiative over four years ago, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share what we’ve learned and further this work at a national level.”
John Stebbins, managing director of PROCON, thanked attendees, saying, “We were honored to host this insightful discussion about a terrific program that is making a difference for our employees, their families and for the employees of hundreds of other businesses across the state. Dr. Gupta and Governor Sununu have been at the forefront of fighting addiction issues along with the other participants today, and I think we all learned a lot from sharing our knowledge with each other. PROCON is proud to be a recovery friendly workplace, and I hope every business in New Hampshire will take advantage of the RFW program.”
In New Hampshire, over 300 businesses are designated as recovery friendly workplaces, representing roughly 84,000 employees.
“New Hampshire led the nation in addressing our opioid crisis head-on with innovative programs like Recovery Friendly Workplaces,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “Through this program, we’ve worked hard to change the culture around addiction by engaging employers as part of the solution, ensuring access to tools and resources is easier than ever before. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Gupta to New Hampshire as he heard firsthand of the program’s success as it has taken hold across the country.”