DUBOIS — Jessica Clontz, assistant teaching professor in human development and family studies (HDFS) at Penn State DuBois, was a featured speaker at the recent Recovery Expo and Hiring Event, facilitated by Workforce Solutions for North Central PA. The event provided a venue for community members, human service professionals and local employers to learn from each other about how best to support individuals and families impacted by substance use disorder, with a specific focus on the importance of employment in the recovery process.
Clontz’s presentation, entitled “What Employers Need to Know About Creating a Recovery-Friendly Workplace,” incorporated examples of small but effective strategies companies can implement to support employees who are in recovery of substance use disorder. Clontz explained that research on variables that impact the sustainability of long-term recovery indicates that meaningful employment early in the recovery process increases the likelihood that a person will maintain recovery.
“It creates a consistent routine, a sense of purpose and giving back, and a community in which a person can feel a sense of belonging,” Clontz said. “When a person is living with a substance use disorder, the person is often coping with a significant sense of shame and disconnection from those who love them, among other stressors. Feeling an authentic connection with others and a sense of belonging boosts our sense of hope, this feeling that I’m valued, I’m worthy, and I can do this. The pull of addiction can still be there, but the pull of recovery and healing will be stronger.”
Clontz wove her personal story into her presentation, sharing that as a person in recovery herself and a loved one of someone in recovery, she has witnessed first-hand the role employment plays while on the road to recovery. She also explained that “people in recovery from substance use disorder have probably been through some incredibly tough circumstances and yet, they kept going. They have probably faced stigmatization because of their use or maybe criminal justice involvement. They probably carry trauma and shame and guilt. And yet they kept going.
“In recovery, we keep moving forward despite the odds, despite the shame or the stigma. That’s resilience. That’s perseverance. That’s someone who has a lot to teach others about not giving up and to keep looking for solutions. I want to be on their team.”
In addition to being the program coordinator for the HDFS program, Clontz also leads the addiction and recovery minor program at Penn State DuBois. The program allows students to specialize in prevention, intervention and rehabilitation efforts aimed at those impacted by addiction. Courses utilize experiential learning to introduce students to the field of substance use treatment. Experiences include receiving Narcan training, networking with current professionals in the field, meeting people in recovery and hearing their stories, completing biopsychosocial assessments and writing treatment plans in case studies and interacting with local families of loved ones living with substance use disorder.
Clontz shared that reading about someone’s experience is powerful but meeting a person and hearing their experiences directly is even more powerful, which is why the program leans heavily on active community engagement among students as they prepare to enter careers in social services.