CEO Corner: 5 Questions with SAFE Project’s Adm. Winnefeld 

We’ve been fortunate to partner with SAFE Project, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending the opioid epidemic, on the Gone for Good® at-home medication disposal campaign to bring prevention resources to households across the country. To date, 45,000 Deterra® Pouches have been distributed through Gone for Good – enough to destroy nearly 4 million unwanted medications.

Since 2017, SAFE Project has worked to increase access to prevention, treatment and recovery resources to foster SAFE Campuses, SAFE Communities, SAFE Veterans, and SAFE Workplaces. And they’ve recognized the importance of at-home drug deactivation and disposal throughout their pillars.

Recently, I sat down with SAFE Project co-founder Admiral James Winnefeld to learn more about their newest initiative, SAFE Workplaces, which aims to provide tools, resources and training to employers to help them address workers’ behavioral health needs.


Q: Why did SAFE Project choose to add workplaces to its core areas of focus?

A: Millions of Americans struggle with substance use disorder (or SUD) and mental health issues, and the majority of them are part of the workforce. We know that what is happening in our communities is mirrored in our workplaces, but not every business has the tools available to offer SUD support, recovery resources and mental health resources as a central part of their wellness offerings. We launched SAFE Workplaces to provide practical, actionable programming and services to assist organizations in addressing the behavioral health concerns of their employees and families, which in turn can help protect families, save lives and reduce business costs.


Q: What role do employers play in combating substance misuse?

A: The employer’s role is critical in creating awareness about substance misuse and supporting prevention and recovery activities for workers. For instance, employers and their enrollees spend $1.4 billion on opioids annually, but few prescription recipients are provided education on the importance of proper drug disposal to prevent these powerful drugs from being misused or falling into the wrong hands. Providing workers with an effective at-home disposal option like the Deterra Drug Deactivation and Disposal System can help change disposal behavior and reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating a SUD.


Q: What is the benefit of prevention to employers and workers?

A: Employers are in an ideal position to help mitigate the risk of misuse and the associated costs from lost productivity, accidents and healthcare costs by increasing access to resources and tools that can help prevent addiction before it takes hold. Opioid misuse costs employers an estimated $10 billion from absenteeism and reduced productivity alone, but a workplace drug deactivation and disposal campaign can help employers save as much as 25 cents per member for health plans by reducing claims associated with opioid use disorder.


Q: What resources and tools does SAFE Workplaces offer?

A: We offer a full suite of training, resources and services designed to meet companies where they are and provide them with the flexibility to select the product or service that will most benefit their workforce. SAFE Project is there to guide, support and partner with American employers, whether it’s giving supervisors training on how best to handle staff who exhibit behavioral health symptoms, reviewing company HR/EAP policy for best-in-class programming, or co-branding BE SAFE signage for the workplace to help reduce stigma.


Q: What else can employers do to prevent substance misuse and support employee wellbeing?

A: Employers need to take a proactive approach to reducing the stigma around SUDs and creating a culture of support for employees who may be struggling. Remote work opportunities will likely continue post-pandemic, so offering education and tools like Deterra that workers can use at home is increasingly important. Visit our employer resources page to learn more about creating a healthier and drug-free workforce.


CEO Jason Sundby

Jason Sundby

Chairman & CEO of Verde Environmental Technologies, Inc.