Partner Insights by Contigo Health
Dr. Jonathan Slotkin, Chief Medical Officer
The impact of substance use disorder (SUD) in the U.S. is far-reaching, yet remains misunderstood and untreated and undertreated. Dr. Jonathan Slotkin, Chief Medical Officer, Contigo Heath®, shares how employers can change the conversation about SUD and give those employees who are suffering the dignity they deserve and the tools for successful, long-term recovery.
Q. Are there misconceptions about SUD that you’d like to address?
We strongly believe that mental health is health. SUD is a health problem on par with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. It’s not a moral failing. It’s not a choice. And it’s not an individual problem but a human health problem that grips us all. It impacts entire families, social groups, communities, and workplaces. Seventy percent of adults with a substance use disorder are employed, and one in seven Americans will experience SUD in their lifetime. Many people appear to be functional while still suffering from significant substance use disorder that’s harmful to the patient, their families, and their workplaces.
Q. What can employers do to eliminate the stigma around SUD?
First, employers must embrace the view that SUD is not a personal failing but a chronic health condition and then work to normalize the discussion about SUD. If a drug-free workplace with healthier, more productive employees is the goal, then employers must become advocates and share information about their employer-sponsored SUD health plan benefits and the positive effects of treatment.
How you engage with employees on health issues matters. A positive workplace culture helps make employees feel comfortable that they can maintain their privacy, get real help in a nonjudgmental way, and feel confident that employers will never take punitive action if they access these benefits.
Q. How is Contigo Health’s treatment program different than traditional programs?
Designed in partnership with the world-renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Lionrock Recovery, our treatment approach combines virtual outpatient, traditional outpatient, and residential care to give employees options that allow them to seek care while continuing to work and live with their families.
Help is a phone call away 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Health plan members self-refer into the program. Confidentiality is assured, and Contigo Health prides itself on creating a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment for patients. Since many employees with SUD also have additional mental or physical health conditions, our integrated team takes a comprehensive and individualized approach to employees’ overall health.
Q. How does the program benefit employers?
The annual cost of SUD for employers is about $15,600 per employee with alcohol and drug-related disorders, for a staggering $35 billion across the U.S. While a typical employee misses up to three weeks of work a year due to injury, illness, and reasons other than holidays or vacation, employees with SUD miss two additional weeks due to illness and injury. Employees that have received substance use treatment in the past and have not had a substance use disorder within the last 12 months miss the fewest days of any group at an average of only two weeks annually.
Q. How is Contigo Health’s SUD helping to reimagine healthcare benefits?
There are several ways that Contigo Health differs from traditional approaches that we hope others will emulate. For instance, there’s a lot of excitement about virtual care—and there should be—but it’s sometimes to the exclusion of in-person care. We believe that virtual and in-person delivery options must coexist in an individualized treatment approach.
Many healthcare plans end when the employee finishes the formal inpatient, outpatient, or virtual program. Contigo Health continues its support for 12 months to help employees achieve success and long-term recovery. Employees aren’t abandoned when they exit their acute treatment plan.
Regardless of the path a health plan member chooses, the Contigo Health team of experts wraps their arms around the member to help them get back to their best lives.
For more information, Contact Britt Hayes, Contigo Health’s Chief Commercial
Officer, at Britt.Hayes@contigohealth.com, or call 330-656-1072.