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Businesses are offered drug-free solutions

A St. Petersburg foundation will help those with 100 or fewer employees set up programs.

By SHARON BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Calvina Fay has a different sort of profit-loss message for small businesses:

Drug abuse in the workplace costs money. It can mean higher health care costs, on-the-job accidents, loss in productivity and increased workers' compensation claims.

As executive director of Drug Free America Foundation Inc., based in St. Petersburg, Ms. Fay has a solution. She's offering money and assistance to create programs to prevent drug abuse in the workplace.

"This is a 100 percent active reality," Ms. Fay said. "We have the funds in hand, and we are providing the service."

The program is called America 2000, the Drug-Free Workplace Initiative. The foundation provides technical expertise and education for small businesses that choose to officially establish drug-free workplaces. The foundation defines small businesses as those with 100 employees or fewer. The project tailors drug-free workplace programs to each business. Company managers decide how extensive the effort will be; whether, for instance, there will be random drug testing of employees. Managers are trained how to implement the program; employees are educated about what will happen at their job sites, if anything.

The foundation contracts with PHR Associates Inc. in Tampa to provide all the materials needed, down to forms for labs if drug testing is needed. The foundation's programs are designed to comply with city, county, state and federal drug-free workplace regulations.

"There are literally no strings attached," Ms. Fay said. "It's not going to cost anything to get in place." There may be charges for drug testing, which Drug Free America hires laboratories to do.

Companies may use part or all of the program. Those that choose to use it all could get a 5 percent discount on their workers' compensation insurance, she said.

E. James Reese Funeral Home and Crematory in Seminole does not have any drug problems in its workplace, according to general manager E. James Reese III. Even so, the business is part of the America 2000 initiative.

"It's something I thought was quite an interesting concept," Reese said. "In the past, because the number of employees was so small, it wasn't feasible."

The funeral business still has only 10 workers but America 2000 makes it affordable. Reese said he does not plan random drug testing of his current employees but will require all new workers to be screened.

Reese and other managers at the funeral home completed a two-hour training session Thursday. Drugs were described by what age group usually uses them and what signs indicate that an employee is using drugs.

Reese said he and other managers last week were putting together the policy the funeral business will use if drug use is discovered. He said the drug-free initiative suggests getting employees help instead of just firing them.

When the policy is in place at Reese's business, workers will be required to sign a paper saying they understand what is required of people in a drug-free workplace.

"It's really complete," Reese said of the program. "It's well thought out. It's something we couldn't have done on our own."

The U.S. Small Business Administration gave the Drug Free America Foundation $314,539 to help small businesses establish drug-free environments. Congress appropriated $4-million in the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1998, and the SBA hands out grants to "qualified intermediaries" that can provide technical and financial assistance to small companies.

The foundation is one of those 16 intermediaries. Formed in late 1995, it is the revised version of Straight, which was a drug treatment program. The foundation changed its mission to a drug prevention program.

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