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New Effort in Kentucky Aims to Help Workers Get Substance Abuse Treatment, Remain Employed

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A new program is aiming to help Kentuckians with substance abuse issues land—and keep—jobs.

The effort is called the called the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program, or KTEP, and includes several state business, government, and health care groups.

Normally, if an employee tests positive for drugs, they’d be immediately fired. Businesses participating in KTEP will work to get employees struggling with addiction issues into a treatment program, with the goal of having that employee eventually return to the workplace.

LaKisha Miller is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, one of the groups that’s part of the effort.

“Through KTEP, what employers are now able to do is they’re able to say, ‘hey, let’s go ahead and pause the employment process at this point’”, Miller said. “We’re now able to say, “we’re going to connect you to treatment, I want to be able to get you some help, and then let’s facilitate the process of getting you back safely to work.’”

The new program is a result of a bill passed in the 2020 Kentucky General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Andy Beshear designed to create economic opportunities for residents who have substance abuse issues, while also guiding those individuals into treatment options.

Also playing roles in the program are the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentuciana Health Collaborative, and Kentucky Opioid Response Effort.

Miller say KTEP incorporates the idea of “fair chance employment”—giving those with troubled pasts the chance at a job.

“Fair chance employment isn’t only about opening doors and breaking down barriers for individual Kentuckians. It’s about helping us to thrive and flourish as a state. And quite honestly, it’s going to help us to be more competitive if we can start tapping into more populations that are on the sidelines and not participating in the workforce.”

Miller points out Kentucky ranks 48th in the nation for workforce participation. The state’s high rate of substance abuse has been a leading factor, she says, and the worker shortage has only grown worse since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

More information about the program, including ways Kentucky businesses can sign up to participate in KTEP, can be found here.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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