Chamber suggests second chances

Workshop discusses opioid epidemic

Area employers were urged Wednesday to give people a second chance.

In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic, the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Safety Committee held an educational workshop, “Second Chances in the Workplace,” on Wednesday,

“Many employers have adopted a zero tolerance policy. That is not the best approach for the employee. It is costly to the employer if he has to find a replacement and train him. It can take time for them to function as well as the old employee,” said Troy Mays, director of nursing at Cove Forge Behavioral Health.

Mays said addiction is a disease and should be treated like a disease.

“I am not sure what it will take for everyone to understand that, what will it take for everyone to understand they (recovering addicts) can make a good, hard worker,” Mays said.

Although not an addict, Mays said he received a second chance.

“I have an extensive mental health history. With support, I’ve been able to achieve the position I am in now. I travel all over the state speaking at hospitals and courthouses. I do believe that I am well-respected. I am proud of what I have done in my career,” Mays said.

William Amigh, now a certified recovery specialist for Blair County Drug and Alcohol, said he has had a lot of second chances.

“Instead of two, I would have needed 40 second chances. I had more than nine lives, more than a cat. I should have been dead,” Amigh said.

Amigh said he started drinking beer at age 12, moved on to smoking marijuana with a neighbor when he was 17 and later advanced into OxyContin and heroin.

He ended up in a couple of traffic accidents and eventually spent some time in prison.

He ended up in Blair County Drug Court.

“God bless (attorney) Ed Ferguson; drug court saved my life. It was structural. My probation officer got me a job at Chill and Grill in Tyrone. My heart had changed. I could fantasize about never doing drugs again. I had enough,” Amigh said. “The structure and their resources is what worked for me. Over the last 10 years, the success of the Drug Court in Blair County is the best in the country.”

Amigh moved into his present job in 2016.

“Support is the most important thing to help someone to stay clean. When you have someone to talk to, it makes a huge difference in their life. God bless Judy Rosser and the people at Blair County Drug and Alcohol. They gave me a chance to become someone better,” Amigh said. “I have now been clean for 5.5 years, but I can still walk out of here and make a bad decision.”

John McNeal, also a certified recovery specialist at Blair Drug and Alcohol, said he had a difficult time getting a job when he was released from prison.

“I was black, a convicted felon and an addict; that is reality for me. It has been a challenge for me,” McNeal said.

McNeal said he got a third shift job at BiLo on 25th Avenue and then landed a job with Right Turn.

“I am proof that addiction can be beaten. It was a war, but with a team, it can be defeated. People were able to help me and my self-esteem,” McNeal said.

McNeal said he now has a lot of confidence in himself.

“I work in treatment. I am really good at what I do,” McNeal said. “You have to have confidence in what you do as a professional. I came from being a person who screwed up to become someone who has not screwed up and have become a part of the solution.”

The speakers told prospective employers to be consistent when they consider hiring recovering addicts. They said employers should be able to find qualified employees during the interview process.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.