HHC Behavioral Health Leader Urges Employers to Offer Support for Staff Fighting Addiction

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Senior Vice President of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network Pat Rehmer is urging business leaders to give employees support and access to treatment if they’re battling opioid or other addiction.

“Employers need to be aware that [the opioid crisis] is everywhere and that there are undoubtedly people in their employer base that do have issues with addiction,” Rehmer says.

Rehmer was the keynote speaker at the Hartford Business Journal’s Opioid Forum held on Sept. 27 at Infinity Music Hall in Hartford.  Speaking to more than 100 business leaders and recovery advocates, Rehmer told the crowd that medication assisted treatment programs have proven effective in helping people on the road to recovery.

“We know that there is an 87-percent better chance that a patient will enter recovery if we treat them with these medications.  But it’s important for us to give people the option at different periods of their treatment to come off the medications if they want to.  Not everyone needs to stay on Suboxone or methadone for the rest of their lives.  Some people will.  It allows them to have their lives back,” Rehmer said.

Governor Dannel Malloy opened the forum by telling leaders that the opioid crisis is “bigger than we think.” He said he begins each day by looking at newspaper obituaries for “people under 40 who died at home.” The governor says he’s particularly alarmed by the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

“We live in a world now where heroin is dirt cheap, and it’s about seven percent heroin unless it’s been poisoned by something else [like fentanyl],” Malloy said.   “The reality is if you are using heroin today, you are regularly buying a lottery ticket to be poisoned to death.”

Rehmer also reminded the crowd that it’s never too early to begin a conversation with children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

“It’s been shown that if you prevent your child from using any substance until they are 18, there is about a 90 percent chance that they won’t struggle with addiction later in life, even if they are genetically loaded [to become addicted]. And, if you can keep them from using until they’re 21, about 95 percent won’t have an addiction problem later in their life.  Those are amazing statistics,” Rehmer said.

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