Put to the Test Small Businesses Get Help Starting Drug Prevention Programs

By Barker-Benfield, Simon | The Florida Times Union, March 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

Put to the Test Small Businesses Get Help Starting Drug Prevention Programs


Barker-Benfield, Simon, The Florida Times Union


It can be tough for a small business to afford the drug prevention programs that are routine at big companies. Now, a Jacksonville non-profit agency that specializes in such programs is using a federal grant to market its services to small businesses.

"Up-front, it does not cost anything at all," said Lisa Carter, drug-free workplace coordinator for River Region Human Services, a private not-for-profit agency that also provides substance abuse treatment.

River Region offers small businesses the opportunity to establish drug prevention programs starting with 10 free drug tests, which can used to begin a random testing program or to screen new employees.

After that, companies are charged $28 per additional test, which River Region says compares favorably with the $35 to $55 per test charged by similar providers.

One Jacksonville business that is considering establishing a workplace program is the Hampton Inn at Jacksonville International Airport.

The hotel employs as many as 30 staff members at peak periods, said general manager Khelia Todd. It has a trusted core of longer service employees, but also relies on short-term hires, she said. She had considered a drug prevention program several times over the years but had been deterred by the cost.

Todd estimates that the River Region program would cost $200 to $300 a year, which is much less than she had anticipated it would cost when she agreed to listen to a sales pitch from Carter last week.

Todd is also concerned about offending employees who have been with her for several years and whom she knows well, an important consideration in smaller firms where employees work more closely with each other than they do at big companies.

However, Carter said employees might welcome the program because drug abusers tend to avoid companies that test new employees for drug use and then test randomly later.

Carter also stressed that establishing a program would also reduce workers compensation payments by 5 percent per year, and by 15 percent if the program included random testing. …

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