Is this raising your company’s insurance cost?

Judi Braswell, a vice president at Behavioral Health Systems, speaks with members of the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition on March 20 at the Family Connection offices in Saginaw. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Judi Braswell, a vice president at Behavioral Health Systems, speaks with members of the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition on March 20 at the Family Connection offices in Saginaw. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Employees who are struggling with substance abuse issues typically have twice the amount of health care expenses as other employees, which can have a large impact on employers, according to a substance abuse counselor.

Judi Braswell, a vice president at Behavioral Health Systems, told members of the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition substance abuse among employees can have significant negative impacts on their employers.

“In the workplace, they are two times more likely to leave early or take time off. They are three times more likely to be late,” Braswell told Coalition members.

Braswell and Lt. Chris George, commander of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigation Division, said substance abuse affects a wide range of employees.

Braswell said substance abuse problems begin for many people when they are adolescents.

“That gives them a long time to develop a dependence on a substance,” Braswell said, noting about 75 percent of those who report binge drinking are employed. “It affects their prime working years.”

Braswell encouraged employers to conduct drug and opiate tests to “provide accountability” among employees, and encouraged employers to steer employees battling substance abuse to the proper treatment facilities.

We’ve got to address some of the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need,” Braswell said.

Cutting down on substance abuse can help lower health insurance costs for companies, George said.

“If you maintain a healthy lifestyle – that’s not just exercise and nutrition, but also combating substance abuse – that give you one more check in the box to possibly lower your health insurance costs,” George said.

George said members of the Sheriff’s Office’s Drug Enforcement Task Force are available to talk with local businesses about ways to combat substance abuse problems. To schedule a speaker, contact the Sheriff’s Department at 669-4181.