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COVID-19 Pandemic, Employment, Mental Health, Opioid Use Disorder, Social Determinants of Health, Substance Use



  1. Mumba, Mercy Ngosa PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Davis, Lori MD
  3. Smith, Natalia Langer PhD(c)
  4. Evans, Teairra PhD(c)
  5. Castillo, Rachael BSN


Abstract: Living with an opioid use disorder (OUD) can make finding and sustaining employment a significant challenge and is only expected to get worse in the COVID-19 environment. For most individuals in OUD treatment, being employed is an important part of their recovery journey. Employment has several benefits, including reductions in preoccupation with symptoms, social isolation, risk of suicide, hopelessness, and economic instability, which if not addressed often result in homelessness. Therefore, employment is an important social determinant of health, especially among those with OUD. Employment success and OUD, however, may vary based on race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status. Return to work support as states begin to reopen will be critically important to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with OUD in a post-COVID-19 environment, requiring utilizations of evidence-based interventions. Nurses, particularly psychiatric mental health and addiction nurses, should routinely screen for employment needs of their patients with OUD and connect them to the necessary support services. Finally, nurses should advocate for regulatory reform that allows for employment support services to be billable and integrated in psychiatric and behavioral health services just like other mental health services.