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AIR’s Center for Addiction Research and Effective Solutions (CARES) workforce development priorities focus on creating an educated, skilled, adaptable, and diverse workforce that builds community resilience.

AIR CARES recognizes that employment interventions have a positive impact on addiction treatment outcomes and employment can be an effective addiction prevention and recovery strategy. Moreover, evidence points to higher rates of unemployment often preceding increases in substance use. Increasing employment opportunities people in treatment or recovery is particularly important for communities experiencing the dual dilemmas of unemployment and addiction. Due to historic and systemic issues in the US, minorities and other groups are vulnerable to higher rates of unemployment during periods of economic downturn and have fewer safety nets to overcome the strain.

Through leveraging experience in workforce research and evaluation, and evidence-based design of tailored interventions and technical assistance, CARES works to address barriers to employment for people with current or history of substance use, and design human capital solutions to help employers retain talent, with a macro-level lens toward improving the social and economic well-being of workers and the communities they live in.

AIR CARES priorities include reentry, working with employers, and a focus on COVID-19-related economic recovery:

  1. Working with employers through TA and peer-to-peer learning models to remove stigma for hiring people with lived experience using drugs;
  2. Partnering with community-based health workers (CBHWs) to support behavioral health, integration, and trusted linkages to care within the community while building community resilience;
  3. Workforce capacity expansion for healthcare and behavioral health workers;
  4. Developing curricula for peer recovery specialists and/or other addiction treatment workforce;
  5. Supporting recovery friendly workplaces through development of employer education programs and employee assistance programs;
  6. Advancing research on ban-the-box improvements to address hiring bias against candidates suspected of having a criminal record;
  7. Improving workforce supportive services, funding and delivery models to promote workforce program retention, with a special focus on those reentering society from prison/jail;
  8. Support workforce development programs for at-risk youth that focus on providing empowered youth with industry-relevant training for on-demand jobs;
  9. Developing an approach to economic recovery, COVID-19, and deaths of despair through partnership with AIR’s Economic Resiliency Lab; and
  10. Quantify the impact of isolation and unemployment due to COVID-19 on substance use outcomes.