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August 17. 2013 2:02AM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Drug and alcohol abuse a problem for NH businesses


 

A FEW WEEKS ago, loyal Closing the Deal reader Celeste Clark reached out to me to comment on a few of my recent columns. Celeste had some positive feedback for me, and she also brought to my attention a topic that I haven't ever really thought much about: the impact alcohol and drug abuse has on businesses in New Hampshire.

Celeste Clark is the executive director for the Raymond Coalition For Youth (www.rcfy.org). The coalition's focus is to promote positive youth development and strengthen community assets by coordinating services and opportunities through prevention initiatives.

Celeste got involved in 2000, when the University of New Hampshire came to Raymond and conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The results of the survey showed a concerning number of kids abusing drugs and alcohol. Having four young children at the time, Celeste felt compelled to get involved. She has served as the executive director of the Raymond Coalition For Youth for the last eight years.

Its work is focused heavily on education and working within the community to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. And the interesting part is that they aren't focused solely on teaching children about the dangers of drugs. It's adults, too. Celeste and I had an interesting conversation about how all of this impacts the business community, and I was floored to learn about the magnitude of this problem.

In December 2012, PolEcon Research, in collaboration with New Futures released a survey titled, "The High Cost of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in New Hampshire." The research details some very concerning trends in our state. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to a slew of problems within our communities, but the one thing that stood out to me was how the problem impacts business.

Excessive alcohol consumption costs the state more than $1.15 billion annually in lost productivity and earnings and increased expenditures for health care and public safety costs, the report states. That is a staggering number. It's interesting to consider what this means to businesses that have employees who may contribute to this problem.

If you're involved in the management of people in a business, you know that people are typically the most valuable asset of an organization. And when there are issues that produce decreases in productivity, that is a problem that has more of an impact than most people realize.

According to the report, more than 54,000 workers with an alcohol dependency or abuse problems are employed by New Hampshire businesses. That results in more than $27 million in alcohol attributed absenteeism costs and more than $71 million in loss of output by the affected employees.

Celeste explained to me that she spends a lot of time speaking with business leaders about creating a drug-free workplace. Drug abuse is equally as big of a problem as alcohol abuse and is usually related. Celeste encourages companies to implement a drug testing policy as a requirement of hiring and random drug testing to ensure employees remain drug free.

The work that Celeste Clark and her team does is important for the children in our communities, the businesses that play a critical role in the success of their employees and the success of the state's economy. Their passion and tireless efforts have a positive impact in the lives of many and for that, we should be thankful for all they do.

We can all do our part to help educate people on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and develop corporate cultures that support a healthy environment that provides opportunities to get people the help they need when necessary.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.