"In the workplace, the problems of these substance abusers become your problem." Dan McClelland
Business owners and personnel officers in Geauga County heard some sobering statistics last Friday about drug abuse in America’s workforce.
Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland brought the signs and consequences of skyrocketing drug use very close to home during the recent Geauga Growth Partnership panel discussion establishing a drug-free workplace.
From August through this February, 168 individuals were arrested on narcotics charges in the county, McClelland said, adding the number increased from 100 arrested August 2012 through February 2013.
The Drug Enforcement Task Force arrested 24 dealers the first quarter of 2013 and 77 the second quarter, he said.
County statistics show 93 deaths from overdose of heroin, although the flow has ebbed, somewhat, McClelland said.
A year ago, there was one death from overdose every month and it is now one every other month, he said.
The cost of street heroin has gone up 25 percent in the last four months, which may account for the decrease in the number of fatalities, along with law enforcement’s stepped up raid program on methamphetamine houses, McClelland said.
He has little doubt heroin has become a local problem.
“It’s in Geauga County,” he said, adding more than 70 percent of substance abusers hold jobs and, on a national scale, the epidemic is costing employers about $81 billion a year.
“It’s cutting into your profits,” McClelland said, adding some studies show one in four workers have used drugs in the last year.
“In the workplace, the problems of these substance abusers become your problem,”?the sheriff said.
Indicators of Drug Abuse
The sheriff said an employer or supervisor may suspect drug abuse if an individual shows several of these costly characteristics at work:
Inconsistent work quality;
Lower productivity and erratic work patterns;
Unexplained disappearances from the job site;
Carelessness and errors in judgment;
Needless risk taking;
Disregard for safety; and
Early departure from work.
Injury and fatality accident rates and absenteeism are 35 percent higher among substance abusers, who are five times more likely to submit a claim than other workers and who use eight times more health benefits, McClelland said, adding pilferage is common.
“They steal your stuff,” he said, along with making about a third less product or services than non-abusers.
McClelland also gave the crowd a list of physical signs that might create a pattern of a substance abuser:
Bloodshot eyes with abnormally large or small pupils;
Frequent nosebleeds, possibly from snorting drugs;
Changes in appetite/weight and sleep patterns;
Seizures without epilepsy;
Deterioration in grooming and appearance;
Injuries he or she won’t discuss;
Unusual odors on breath, body or clothing; and
Tremors, slurred speech and poor coordination.
“Substance abuse will always have a negative effect on your health,” McClelland said, listing the antisocial and unbalanced behavioral and psychological signs of deterioration apparent in an abuser.
He also said a huge number of crimes committed, from driving under the influence to theft and murder can be laid at the door of drug use.
“If we could get substance abuse out of the community, 95 percent of our people in jail wouldn’t have to be there,” McClelland said.
He urged businesses to take a hard line and institute a zero-percent tolerance for drug use in the workplace.
Businesses that are careless in their due diligence are magnets for substance abusers, because word gets around in the drug culture.
“They will find you if you hire without a drug policy and drug testing,” McClelland said.
The Fifth Vital Sign
Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica, also a member of the Geauga County Opiate Task Force, traced the epidemic back to 1998 when the medical industry declared pain to be the fifth vital sign and prescriptions for opium-based pain pills became common.
By 2005, the country was in a pill crisis with millions of Americans going through withdrawal and looking for relief, she said.
Heroin came on the market much cheaper than the pills and probably produced a better high, Stupica said.
By 2012, local youth were going to Euclid to score heroin and the task force was formed.
“We’re doing everything we can to stop this scourge,” she said, adding, however, the opium has a head start.
In the last 10 months, she said she has seen 173 addicts come before her bench. In 2012, she knows of 162 heroin overdoses and one of every six resulted in death.
“This last week we had five people in jail detoxing,” Stupica said.
State legislators are considering a program for schools to help staff recognize symptoms in students, but the chances of defeating the heroin epidemic are slim, she said.
Laurel Hildebrand, benefits manager for Kinetico Inc. in Newbury Township, and Mary Jo Toumert, with Great Lakes Cheese in Troy Township, discussed every company’s need for a well-drafted drug policy and drug screening and testing.
Hildebrand said Kinetico, which employes about 300 at its Newbury headquarters, also has a supervisors training program and consistent testing protocols to ensure that, in case of an accident, all the steps are correctly followed.
Strict Drug Policies Essential
Drug policies differ from state to state, Toumert said, adding many workers compensation cases have to do with drugs.
Drug addiction and alcoholism are protected disabilities under the ADA so a company can’t fire people who admit they are addicted, but if they are involved in an incident and are proven to be under the influence, they can be dismissed.
“Our policy is, if you test positive, you are gone,” she said.
Legally, lockers, desks and vehicles can be searched if the employee has signed a form informing him of that policy, Toumert said.
“Acknowledgements are real important downstream in litigation,” she said.
Rich Frenchie, the GGP member who introduced the speakers, said the drug problem is growing in Geauga County.
“This problem is not somewhere in the closet,” he said, adding the shale oil fields in southern Ohio can’t get enough workers because of the drug culture.
“About 75 percent of applications are declined because the applicants can’t pass the drug test,” Frenchie said.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.