County considers new drug testing programSubstance abuse seems to be everywhere and sometimes, it’s where you least expect it.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
Substance abuse seems to be everywhere and sometimes, it’s where you least expect it.
Douglas County may be taking a more active role when it comes to employees who might be using drugs and alcohol.
Claudia Stein from Northstar Medical Services, Inc. presented information to Douglas County commissioners at last week’s regular board meeting.
In her presentation, Stein noted that nearly 75 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users.
Studies have shown, she said, that substance-abusing employees are more likely to:
•Change jobs frequently.
•Be late or absent from work.
•Be a less productive employee.
•Be involved in a workplace accident.
•File a worker’s compensation claim.
Stein told commissioners that if drug and alcohol use is decreased, it could benefit the county, such as reducing work comp claims by 10 percent.
In order to make Douglas County a drug-free workplace, Stein suggested the following:
Begin with careful planning. A solid policy needs to be put in place, she said.
Develop a drug-free program carefully. Supervisors need to stress the positive aspects of a drug-free environment. Stein noted, however, that if the county has supervisors who are not on board, “You could have a rocky road.”
Consider the resources available and decide if a more comprehensive program should be offered, which would include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), training for supervisors, education and awareness for employees and a substance abuse program.
She stressed that if the county decides to implement a drug-testing program, employee education will be pertinent.
“You will need to let your employees know about this,” she said.
Stein noted that tangible costs are involved, along with intangible benefits as well, such as improving the lives of all involved – employees, employers and families of employees.
After reviewing how drug testing works and the different types of testing – job applicant testing, reasonable suspicion testing and random testing – Stein told commissioners that by allowing drug testing and setting up a drug-free program, they are being proactive instead of reactive.
Commissioner Bev Bales said, “This is something that needs to be considered.”
Paul Anderson, board chair, asked about the cost.
Stein explained that the cost is $55 per test per county employee. She also noted that the county should check with its insurance carrier as it may receive a discount for having a drug program in place.
No action was taken – for now. The commissioners will be studying the issue and their options.