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Unions and Drug Rehab: Is Rehab Supported by Labor Unions?

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 01/20/2021

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (561) 340-7269 now.

Updated 01/20/2021

Labor unions often support addiction rehab because they know that treatment can help employees to be more productive, which benefits employers.

Broadly speaking, labor unions work to bring justice to the workplace. These unions are groups of workers who organize to reach decisions about issues that affect workplace conditions. Labor unions make choices about work hours, salaries and benefits like health insurance and vacation time.

Because they can decide what sort of health insurance and paid time off workers will receive, labor unions often do play a role in the addiction rehab process, and many support getting help for workers.

Labor Unions and Rehab Programs

Labor unions can help addicted workers in a variety of ways. The Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, which encourages employees with addiction to seek rehab and then return to work, has multiple unions among its members. These include the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Unions that belong to addiction support organizations want their employees to be productive, and research shows that rehab can help employees perform better in the workplace. The National Safety Council reports that employees in addiction recovery miss less work, have lower rates of job turnover and require fewer medical visits. Essentially, employees who go to rehab are more productive and cost the organization less money in health care expenses. Given these facts, it makes sense for labor union benefits to cover addiction treatment.

In general, unions are likely to support employees who go to rehab. Instead of losing employees to addiction and having to replace them, unions would prefer that workers get the help they need and return to work. While labor unions do tend to support rehab, some treatment centers may take advantage of union members because union benefits tend to offer generous coverage. To protect themselves, union workers should seek a rehab center that offers individualized treatment plans and takes unique needs into consideration. The best treatment facilities are transparent about their policies and are accredited by professional bodies, including the Better Business Bureau.

How The Recovery Village and IAFF Support First Responders

At The Recovery Village, we believe that unions should support rehab. This is why we partnered with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union to design the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery. Located just outside of Washington, D.C., this rehab center is designed specifically to serve firefighters, EMTs and other first responders who are IAFF members. We provide treatments that are supported by scientific research, and our center offers amenities that include a full gym, walking trails and a basketball court. Our campus, designed like a firehouse, allows IAFF members to take comfort among their peers and receive the quality treatment they need to return to work.

Accessing Substance Abuse Treatment Through Your Union

If you are looking for substance abuse treatment, the first step is to talk to your union representative at work. Most workplaces have an employee representative who can provide information about union benefits. You may also be able to access your union’s online portal, where you can find membership information and search for providers who are covered under your union health insurance program.

Your union may also provide a member assistance program (MAP), which is likely to offer counseling and referrals to other services, such as inpatient rehab. You can use your union-provided MAP to easily access substance abuse treatment.

Union-Funded Addiction Treatment and Patient Brokering

Your employer may provide you with a list of union-approved providers, while your MAP may only offer services at a specific rehab center. Even if services are union-supported, you should be sure to do your research to ensure that the provider is trustworthy. As was the unfortunate case with teachers in New Jersey, rogue rehab centers may keep patients longer than needed or refuse to sign off on treatment completion. These predatory facilities do so in order to continue collecting money from union members’ health insurance.

To avoid these situations, be sure that your facility is accredited and receives high ratings from other consumers. It is also helpful to talk to the facility about the usual length of treatment and your rights to have a say in treatment planning. Finally, you should ensure that the facility provides evidence-based treatment, meaning it uses methods that are backed by research.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction?

Our Recovery Advocates are available 24/7 to help.

Furloughed Employees and Labor Union Benefits

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some union workers remain furloughed due to economic concerns. You may wonder if you will still be able to access union benefits and seek treatment during your furlough. According to legal experts, the answer will depend upon the terms of your health insurance plan.

Some union plans may continue to offer you coverage while you are on furlough but require you to pay the premiums. Others may continue to offer insurance and temporarily cover your portion of the premium. You will have to check with your union representative to determine whether health insurance benefits will remain available during your furlough. If you lose coverage during your furlough, you may be eligible for COBRA insurance to help you continue your coverage.

Choosing the Right Drug Rehabilitation Facility

If your union allows you to select a treatment center, it is important to choose a reputable facility that offers evidence-based treatment. If you are looking for addiction treatment at a trustworthy facility, The Recovery Village has several locations across the country, including The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, and offers a variety of evidence-based treatments. We are proud to have numerous accreditations, and our services are covered by most health insurance providersContact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can help you recover from addiction.

View Sources

Armstrong, David; Allen, Evan. “Targeted by an addiction treatment center, union workers feel trapped as their benefits are drained.” Stat, November 10, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2020.

Ballard Spahr. “Employee Benefits and Furloughs in the Era of COVID-19.” March 17, 2020. Accessed November 15, 2020.

Drug-Free Workplace Alliance. “About the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance.” Accessed November 15, 2020.

National Safety Council. “Drugs at Work: What Employers Need to Know.” 2020. Accessed November 2, 2020.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Provide Support.” June 26, 2020. Accessed November 15, 2020.

Union Plus. “What is a union?” Accessed November 15, 2020.