Employment Advocacy

We Advocate for a Recovery-Oriented System of Care that Values the Voice of Lived Recovery Experience

Background

People with lived recovery experience have been an integral part of the state’s behavioral health delivery system for many years. Since 2001, Georgia has supported a trained peer workforce – people who are living in recovery from a mental illness, substance use disorders or both – and who have a proven track record of helping others to achieve a better life.

In April of 2012, the Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) policy for hiring peers changed. A new policy created barriers to employment and there were calls for sudden termination in continued employment for peers, even with the most minimal criminal history record. Additionally, the policy excluded any opportunity for explanation or for consideration of individualized hiring options.

The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network opposed the new policy realized the negative impact resulting from the changes seriously impacting our fellow peers who have criminal histories that excluded them from being hired. As a result of this advocacy and many discussions with DBHDD, we are excited to inform you that changes have been made and these became effective on August 15, 2014.

We thank DBHDD leadership for their openness to reduce barriers to employment in the programs and services they fund.

Please click HERE to review the revised policy.

Highlights from the new Criminal History Records Checks for Contractors, #04-104 include:

The individualized assessment process supports DBHDD’s focus on recovery. DBHDD recognizes that individuals with a history of mental health and/or substance abuse diagnoses can and do recover. The assessment process enhances the ability of DBHDD to facilitate the hiring of individuals who can share life experiences of recovery and offer a unique form of support and encouragement to others.

Below are comments taken from an announcement made by DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry on July 8, 2014:

The revision will address three challenges relative to mandatory disqualification for employment.

The current policy:

Contradicts the department’s tenet that individuals can and do experience recovery,

Prevents the hiring of candidates uniquely qualified for a position due to life experiences (such as certified peer specialists) and is contrary to recent guidance from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The revised policy will enhance our review process and address the identified challenges by:

Integrating hiring practices consistent with EEOC guidance.

Creating a more “targeted” screening process.

Allowing individuals found initially ineligible to apply for an individualized assessment.

Establishing the formation of a review committee

Many Georgians with mental illness and/or addiction also have criminal histories which serve as a barrier to recovery. In February 2015, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order implementing a “ban the box” policy that outlaws a requirement for people with criminal histories to disclose that information on a job form. We commend this and all efforts to promote the reality of recovery from behavioral health disorders.

For more information on “Ban the Box in Georgia” click HERE

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