GE Johnson Construction offering help to employees struggling with mental illness and addiction

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) More Americans than ever are dying from drug overdoses.

Just last year, 72,000 people died from an overdose. That number is double what is was ten years ago.

Colorado is no exception to the trend. Since 1999, the Rocky Mountain State has also seen a steady rise in deaths from drug overdoses, including right here in El Paso County.

President of GE Johnson Construction Jim Johnson says his family is one of many families across the region impacted by mental health and addiction. He says while dealing with these issues, the lack of support and resources across the community was "disheartening."

"It really raised my personal awareness level," he told Reporter Kyla Galer.

The El Paso County Coroner says in 2017, 147 people died from an overdose. It's the number one cause of "accidental deaths."

A new program through GE Johnson is working to prevent more people from becoming a statistic. The program is known as Face It Together and is essentially another benefit for the company's employees and their families. It offers counseling and navigation resources and flexibility with work - all at no cost to the employee.

“We’re very interested in the lives of not only our employees but also our families, and if you think about some of the activities we’re doing on a construction site, it’s very hazardous to us to have an employee somewhere else, worried about a family member," Johnson said.

There are about one thousand people employed through GE Johnson. The program just launched this week and Johnson says they've already had a handful of people sign up and show interest.

Andrew Romanoff, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado says substance abuse and mental health often go hand-in-hand. He says in both cases, there is usually a gap between symptoms and treatment and that needs to change.

“These are not exotic diseases that are confined to the population. This is a cause that touches every single family in Colorado," he said.

Johnson says he hopes this new program can help raise awareness to the community.

“Both mental health and addiction come with such stigma and the fear of being judged that it’s very encouraging that [GE Johnson's] culture allows people to reach out and say 'hey, I need some help.'”

The program officially starts October, 1st.