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How Employment Assists in Mental Health/Substance Abuse Recovery
By: Jabram Raven Allen  

Meaningful employment positively impacts individuals in recovery from mental health and substance abuse by: 1) making them too tired to engage in former drug related activities directly after work, 2) bringing them under socialized peer pressure which can be exerted upon a macro (society as a whole ranging from employers to friends) and micro level (close associations), 3) implants healthy fears about losing hard won positions of respect within society and monetary rewards, 4) assist in developing and maintaining refusal skills – the ability to say – no – to their drug of choice, past dysfunctional behaviors and life style; thus, providing those in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse who are suffering from long term unemployment with meaningful jobs actually assist in their recovery as it reduces taxes – this is because taxes are utilized to pay for drug treatment programs, incarceration, and increased police presence in communities. According to, (et. al. 2009, Mental Health and Addiction 101 Series) Harm reduction can be defined as "any program or policy aimed at reducing harm related to substance use without requiring that the substance use be stopped. The program or policy may be aimed at the individual, family, community or society." Why not just provide them with volunteer positions?

The problem with this is that today’s volunteers including those that are in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse; especially those that are over thirty may be just as qualified as those individuals working as paid employees. Individuals over thirty struggling with recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues don’t just sit around and collect welfare and SSI checks. These individuals also engage in everything from volunteer positions, internships to formal education in order to return to work; unfortunately a number of these individuals may engage in these back to work activities for years without being rewarded for their efforts; thus, encouraging them to relapse and give up any hope of leading a normal life. According to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 2010 online publication relating to volunteerism within the U.S: whites volunteered at a rate of (27.8 percent), blacks at (19.4 percent) and Asians (19.6 percent); while Hispanics or Latinos, 14.7... Individuals with higher levels of educational attainment which includes those that possess college degrees who age 25 and over volunteered at a rate of 42.3 percent.

Although there are laws that that offer tax incentives for hiring long term unemployed individuals, these laws may not be enough to ensure that women and minorities in recovery from MHSA issues will be rehired back into the work force due to the problem of racism, and the stigma of substance abuse/mental illness. Yet, without question, hiring long term unemployed individuals in recovery is the best way to reduce government and tax payer spending.


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