Mental Health is a Workforce Challenge and Opportunity
According to the Brookings Institute, a 2016 survey of individuals aged 25-54 who were not in the labor force showed that nearly half of men and 54% of women reported taking pain medications daily and, “one estimate suggests the opioid epidemic accounts for 43% of the decline in men’s labor force participation rate between 1999 and 2015 and 25% of the decline for women.”
This is data highlighting the impact of just one struggle (substance use) and one drug category (opioids) on our labor force. When we extrapolate that out amongst all the mental health challenges existing in our community the impact on work is tremendous. The pandemic has broken down walls of stigma, increased awareness of resources and mobilized philanthropic and civic-led action on mental health, but it has also driven up demand from our residents… and the capacity of our mental health ecosystem does not have the workers to meet it. This misalignment has no short-term, turnkey solution… but that does not mean we roll over.
Our community is filled with visionary leaders who have embraced mental health, and real actions that can be taken to make our lives better as residents and/or workers. Our mayors, first responders, County Commissioners, and County Council members are building ecosystems that care, and doing their best to identify visionary solutions that will forever impact how our community compassionately cares for those with the hardest struggles.
At Invest we’re working with community partners like our Chambers of Commerce, Community Foundation, and elected officials to deliver resources, facilitate collaboration, and organize long-term projects and partnerships to address these challenges.
While society and our elected officials think big… I think it is on all of us to think about our own spheres of influence. When was the last time our workplace explored a second-chance policy to hire justice involved individuals? Do we have evidence-based second chance systems for directing individuals to treatment for addiction after a failed drug test or request for help? How accessible is our EAP program… and does it provide free therapy/counseling sessions.
We can all make choices today that have a snowball effect… if you don’t know where to start Invest Hamilton County and our network of partners are here to help.
Mike Thibideau serves as the President & CEO of the Hamilton County Economic Development Corporation (dba Invest Hamilton County). In this role Mike manages workforce development, talent attraction and quality of life initiatives throughout Hamilton County.