Who will hire people recovering from addiction? Maybe you

Workforce Snohomish will pay transitional wages for workers who need to get back to work.

EVERETT — Employers wanted: Hire a job-seeker who’s recovering from opioid addiction and Workforce Snohomish will pay 100 percent of their wages.

The nonprofit agency, which operates employment assistance and training centers in Everett and Lynnwood, hopes to recruit businesses for a new program aimed at getting people in recovery back to work, said Elizabeth Gordon, the agency’s director of professional services.

“Workforce will be the employer of record and pay their wages,” Gordon said.

The agency is getting $2.4 million in federal money to help people affected by the opioid crisis.

“A portion of the funds are going to this program,” she said.

Workforce hopes to provide about 120 people in recovery with fully paid “transitional jobs” lasting one to two months.

“These jobs are for people who don’t have a recent work history or just need time re-adjusting to the workplace,” Gordon said.

Another 280 would receive career services, Gordon said.

Getting people back to work is one of the keys to sobriety, said Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, director of the Snohomish County Human Services Department.

“Employment is one of the critical components along with housing and treatment that are necessary to be able to move forward,” Brell-Vujovic said.

”This is another resource that will help them get jobs.”

Snohomish County has been hard hit by the opioid crisis.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 county residents are experiencing opioid addiction; another 35,000 to 80,000 people may be misusing opioids, according to a recent Snohomish Health District report.

The opioid class of drugs includes heroin, synthetics such as fentanyl, and some prescription medications, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

In 2017, there were 100 opioid-related deaths in the county. Last year there were 95 such deaths, according to preliminary estimates. The peak of opioid-related deaths occurred in 2011, with 145 countywide. Increased access to naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug, has helped reduce the death toll.

Last month, the county filed a lawsuit in Snohomish County Superior Court against drug maker Purdue Pharma, distributor McKesson Corp. and other defendants.

The suit seeks damages for the toll that OxyContin and similar drugs have taken on the community.

Everett and the Tulalip Tribes have filed federal lawsuits.

When the U.S. Department of Labor awarded Washington nearly $5 million last summer to help recovering opioid users and their caregivers return to the workplace, Workforce Snohomish received almost half of it — $2.4 million.

Workforce will match employers and job-seekers, Gordon said.

“Employers will be able to decide which jobs might be a good fit. We’ll work with them but they can make the final selection.”

“Our financial support will be temporary — from four to eight weeks — but we’re hoping companies might decide to make them a permanent employee.”

Human Services and other county and non-profit agencies will help screen and refer job-seekers to the program.

“There’s a perception out there that it’s a certain type of person that’s been affected,” Gordon said. “We hope to take away that perception.”

“The opioid problem has impacted so many genders, races and ages.”

For more information about the program, contact Elizabeth Gordon at elizabeth.gordon@workforcesnohomish.org at Workforce Snohomish.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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