PARKERSBURG - Cutting down on drug abuse in the workplace to allow people to be able to thrive was the focus of a conference held in Parkersburg Wednesday for the community.
Around 25-30 businesses and community organizations gathered at the Nemesis Shriners Club on Watson Road in Parkersburg for the Governor's Substance Abuse Round Table Event.
Participants discussed such topics as regional drug trends that impact the workplace; risk analysis; when employers should be worried and when to talk to the employee about it; pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing and when it is necessary; and more.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
During the Governor’s Substance Abuse Round Table Event held Wednesday at the Nemesis Shriners Club in Parkersburg, Karen Schimmel, director of Outpatient Substance Abuse Services at Westbrook, discusses the costs businesses can incur as a result of employees who abuse drugs and alcohol.
Organizers said West Virginia employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find employees who do not test positive for drugs. The Governor's Regional Substance Abuse Task Force is seeking to educate employers and the community about this problem and bring together resources and support.
"The reason we did these meetings with the top employers in the region is as we would travel with the governor's (taskforce) we would hear that there are jobs, but we can't fill them, because folks aren't passing the drug tests or people are not just showing up for work," said Kathy Paxton, director of Substance Abuse Services for the State of West Virginia. "We wanted to be intentional about talking to employers in each region of the state.
"What we found is that our employers are eager to do whatever they can. We know there has to be a zero-level policy, but we also want people to get help as soon as possible."
Karen Schimmel, director of Outpatient Substance Abuse Services at Westbrook, said employees who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol are less productive, use three times as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves or someone else; and are five time more likely to file worker's compensation claims.
"Around 70 percent of all illegal drug users are employed," she said. "Drug-related problems are responsible for 36 percent of employee theft.
"Drug reliant employees incur 300 percent higher medical costs. Loss to companies in the United States due to alcohol- and drug-related abuse by employees totals $100 billion per year."
Many company representatives were surprised by the kinds of drugs people are abusing.
"The employers really don't know the drugs and how they are used," Paxton said.
Stimulants, synthetics - K2, Spice and bathsalts - which have come into the area are some of the drugs many have not been sure about.
"There is a misconception in the public and with employers that is it was sold on the shelf it must be kinda safe," Paxton said. "With prescription drugs, if it was once a prescription, even though it was not one of mine, it must be safe.
"I think it is that misconception that gets people to use. Many people just don't understand."
With synthetics, ingredients are used to mask them and the tests don't include some of the materials being used.
Paxton said many employers and organizations are trying to be more preventative with the employee programs that are available, trying to address the problem before the person hits rock bottom.
"More employers are drug testing," she said. "They understand it is a health and safety issue.
"It is a good way to get someone into treatment. People want to work and want to take care of their families. It is a great time to intervene at that place of employment."
Many businesses and organization have a drug policy, but many don't have the culture to effectively implement it.
"Instead of it being a piece of paper that you are given at orientation and sign, we want companies to spend time putting things on the walls for people to read and make sure they are getting ongoing education," Paxton said.