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Old 10-13-2001, 02:18 PM
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Hello Gang....
Some of you may be wondering about what inspired the last post by Pernell. I got an e-mail from a gal named Dee who was wondering about the legal fairness of dismissing an addict from a job. Her belief is that alchoholism/addiction is a disability, and since other disabilities have to be legally tolerated, perhaps that one should too.

This is part of my response.

"Alchoholism as a disability is debatable. In this state, it is treated as such, and recovering addicts and alchoholics can get a lot of help from state programs. However, even in the world of disability, there is such a thing as a legitimate job requirement. A roofer cannot be required to hire someone with paralysis. Presence and dependability are legitimate job requirements in any field. Obviously, one cannot perform a job if they are not present. I have been an employer. I know of which I speak."

I have read a lot of both side's arguments about whether or not addiction is a disease. Their differences seem to be largely semantic. Either the addiction is a disease, or the emotional state of mind that leads to addiction is a disease. Or both. Either way, the addict HAS a disease (or maybe two), and (in some cases) a disabling one.

This doesn't really change the answer to the question of whether or not it is fair or legal to dismiss and addict from employment. If it affects his ability to perform his job, it is. And if he is not present and cognizant, he cannot perform his job. A woman I worked with many years ago was dismissed from a job because she had cancer and her illness kept her from being dependable. I believe she was able to collect unemployment, but it is unreasonable to expect an employer to keep someone on the payroll if they cannot rely on them. For whatever reason. It is unfair financially to the employer and also unfair to other employees that have to take up the slack.

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Old 10-13-2001, 03:06 PM
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Sorry if I did not answer Dee's question appropriately. This is the standard procedure:

If a company has (E.A.P.) Employee Assistance Program, the employer will refer the alcoholic/addict to the E.A.P for assistance and intervention to help the employee overcome the addiction and return to work as a valued employee. If the employer does not have such a program in place the alcoholic/addict is dependent on the compassion of the employer which seldom works in favor of the employee. Although addiction is recognized as a disease there is still a stigma attached to it that is persistent and operating in this society.


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Old 10-13-2001, 04:13 PM
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Okay, as an employer, I'm hot on this subject.

Many people in the workforce work for small companies like mine that cannot even afford an insurance program, much less E.A.P. And I have to say that, functioning in the theatrical field, I have had occasion to employ a lot of drug/alchohol users. Some of them addicts. I frankly don't care what people do in their free time. I don't want them high on the job (it's dangerous) and I don't want illegal substances on the premises. Some of these people that I would consider addicts function very well under those restrictions. Some can't help getting messed up and are simply useless, or don't show up. My work is very project oriented and people are hired on a job by job basis. It's never been a question of firing anyone... but there have been several I wouldn't hire again. It hasn't got anything to do with stigma... it has to do with the bottom line. I cannot pay someone who is not productive. And it is unfair to me and everyone else when deadlines become tense because somebody zoned out.

If addiction is a disability, then addicts should be able to draw disability payments like anyone else who cannot maintain a job. But no employer should be expected to carry a dead weight. And they should not be accused of stigmatizing an addict just because they can't afford to make the addict their personal charity.

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Old 10-13-2001, 05:34 PM
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Smoke as strongly as you feel about this. The facts are as I stated. Stigma is as it is for alcoholism and drug addiction. Addicts/alcoholics cannot draw disability at this date. Like I said before The employer such as your self has to decide if they are willing and compassionate enough to deal with workers who are actively addicted. all of what you said is true. No one wants to employ dead weight but the laws and the programs available are as they are.


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Old 10-15-2001, 02:47 PM
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Okay...
I've thought about this some more.

Now, I want to put in this question. If we call addiction a disability, and give addicts the same employment protection, the same unemployment compensation, the same disability structure as traditionally physically and mentally disabled people.... aren't we asking employers and society at large to do what we ask "anons" not to do? Don't support them. Don't enable them. Don't make it easier for them to pursue their bad behavior. Tough love, we say. What kind of message does it send if we say, as a community, "you're disabled, we'll foot the bill. It's okay you don't feel like participating in your own upkeep. Here's some money to get high on."

The vocational rehab program Dino is in depends on his continued counseling and sobriety. He gets money to go to school and some to live on as long as he stays on the straight and narrow. It's not "disability", it's rehabilitation. It wasn't at all hard to get. Is this state so different from others?

Now I'm not about to argue with giving help to people who are recovering. From ANYTHING. I will balk till I'm blue over anyone who wants to give unemployment or disability money to someone to lay in a heap and drool over a bottle. I will defend unreservedly the employers right to rid himself of an employee who simply does not pull his own weight. Like any other anon, how long and how much they put up with has to be up to them, and damage weighed against contribution.

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Old 10-15-2001, 05:47 PM
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Smoke, let me draw it up for you. In most comprehensive treatment facilities. There is a part that is purely treatment, i.e groups, personal issues, mens group, women's group therapy group, confrontation group etc. Then there is individual counseling. There is the medical part to go along with the psychosocial. The second part of treatment or what is called Re-Entry, The client is allowed to work if he/she can work. They are given living quarters at low rent or no rent. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation will pay for school of your choice fully funded, give you a bus card and you eat three meals at the faility. All this hinges on participation in the program and drug-free urine randonly tested. There is more but all this is contingent on successful treatment meaning drug-free and actively participating in your own recovery. I understand your passion for this subject and your interest in your loved one. Believe me there is no difference in treatment in Kentucky or in New York. THere is what you know and what you don't know. You are doing fine, stay teachable and keep teaching.

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Old 10-17-2001, 08:39 AM
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I realize there were a lot of questions couched in that one post... but the one that intrigues me most is going undiscussed.

SHOULD addicts have access to SSDI?

If, as Pernell says, things are pretty much the same in other states as in KY, there is TONS of help out there for recovering addicts. All Dino had to do was want help and BLAM, there it was.

Here's one for you. I had an intern at one time who was diagnosed with a mental disorder and given disability(SSDI and state money as well) on a limited time basis . She was a drug/alchohol user. I'm certainly not qualified to say whether or not she was a drug user because she was mentally ill or mentally ill because she was a drug user. What I do know, is that part of her disease diagnosis was paranoia and depression. She was still paranoid and depressed, at least partly because she was using some of her disability money to buy alchohol and marijuana to use. Strangely, she couldn't pay her rent on time and the stress of that upset her. Also, she would tell stories about her "wasted" exploits, then seem confused about professors expecting work to be done on time, and blame her "mental condition" for her inability to focus and get the work done.

I put up with a lot of erratic behavior from this chick. I felt sorry for her. I wonder how I would have felt if I'd known then what I know now.

Educating people about addiction is a two edged sword. The more I learn, the LESS "compassionate" I feel, both personally and in the business environment. But then, I was a doormat, basically. And I have come to realize that I "enabled" not just Dino, but employees and students.

And how about that intern? The system was enabling her. Amazing.

Oh, and there was this other guy. He used his disability money to buy drugs from the same dealers Dino used. He fixed cars on the side to have enough money for the (government subsidized)rent and food. He was obviously, quite capable of working. (Veteran, diagnosis PTSD).

Now, to my mind, this is a place where the 'stigma" attached to drug addiction really comes into play. Not addicts trying to recover being refused the compassionate help they need, but addicts who are trying NOT to recover, receiving the wrong kind of help because some social worker has their bleeding-heart head in the sand.

Sure, I think Dino has emotional problems. I think that's why he uses drugs. But the fact remains that he is addicted to drugs. Where would he be if his counselor had ignored that fact? On SSDI, buying drugs. He is being "rehabilitated", not indulged in his "disability". That seems right to me.

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Old 10-17-2001, 11:02 AM
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Smoke, here we are once again. My pet peeve, Social Workers, they about has much about drugs and alcohl abuse as the chair you are sitting in. For the record clinicians especially (CADC) Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors are the people who make the appropriate decisions concerning addicts. The doctors there are some (Addiction Medicine) only and they are suspect.
SSDI, There was a time when Addicts were eligible and appropriate, then some politician cut it out. As for your friend, this is the deal, there is a diagnosis done on each individual. Your friend had a primary mental diagnosis which entitled her to Disability. The secondary diagnosis, the one that you saw (the addiction) was brought on by the first. The clinician in charge if there was one did not have accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to intervene on the addiction. Now, you know we are talking real technical here and I hope it does not offend anyone. You need to know and I want you to know.


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Old 10-20-2001, 07:05 PM
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Hi Pernell...
That's not really technical, it's just nice words for "some dumb do-gooder dropped the ball". You are so diplomatic.

I doubt that there was ever anything but a primary diagnosis, in my intern's case. Like most addicts, she talks a good game and plays the poor-me game flawlessly. If I was a gambling woman, (and I am), I'd lay odds nobody ever tested her for drugs. Perhaps they asked, and just took her word. Perhaps they were too emotionally swayed to insult her and ruffle her sensibilities by asking about drugs. I tell you, she's good.

I think I'll get off this subject now, since no one seems to care about it but you and me.

But before the dog lets go of the bone (oh, oh!), I want to clarify that I KNOW the law as regards SSDI. I could probably recite the policy manual for you... I went round and round with those people trying to get help for Dino when he had cancer. Drug addiction alone simply does not fit the definition of disabilty that SSDI will cover. Neither does a cancer that one might hope to recover from.

What I wanted to know, was what people THINK about the policy. I've written to my congressmen in support of legislation that would require health insurance companies to cover treatment for drug addiction. I'll get on a bandwagon if I like the music. I think these forums are a great place to hash out these issues and start or feed the groundswell that can make changes in public policy. I don't quite know how to feel about this disability issue yet. My personal experiences make me dubious about the wisdom of granting disability on the basis of addiction. I would read and consider carefully reasonable arguments on the other side.

Thanks for always returning my serve. You're an ace!

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Old 10-20-2001, 07:30 PM
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Smoke, this is what I have to say. Letters sent to congressman or Senators even Presidents, is better received from these pages:

http://www.e-thepeople.com

http://www.partnershipforrecovery.org


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