In late October, President Trump signed the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act,” to combat the country’s growing opioid crisis. The purpose of the act is to reduce access to opioids while expanding opportunities for prevention, treatment, and recovery in a variety of industries.
Health and Human Services (“HHS”) is now tasked with establishing and regularly updating drug screening guidelines with specific attention to hair and oral fluid testing.
In an industry that has long required urine drug screening, why the additional methods?
While popular and cost-effective, urine drug testing can sometimes be inconclusive with savvy employees and job applicants. Additionally, urine-based testing has a short detection period for opiates which means serious drug issues could go unexposed.
In contrast, hair testing has a detection window up to 90 days, which makes abstaining much more difficult for regular drug users. Plus, hair samples are collected in an observed setting where cheating is less likely to occur. Oral fluid tests have a short detection period, but they are gaining popularity as cost-effective supplements to more comprehensive drug testing programs.
What’s in the Act and who will be impacted?
Though the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) is mentioned explicitly in the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act,” the effects will likely be extended to non-regulated employer testing.
The Act requires the HHS to “determine whether a revision of the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs to include fentanyl or any other schedule I or II drugs is justified” (DATIA). Fentanyl is one of the deadliest opioids on the market and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Since January 1, the DOT has used a standard five-panel with expanded opioids category.
HHS is legally required to provide a status update regarding hair testing policies before Dec. 25, 2018. A final rule for oral fluid testing is expected to be published by Dec. 31, 2018.
The Act opens the door for employers nationwide to review and possibly revise their drug screening processes. “Ultimately, employers in both regulated and non-regulated industries will need to consider expanded testing for opiates and Fentanyl use,” said Scott Kitchens, Vice President of Drug and Health Services for Employment Screening Services. “Understanding the various drugs, testing procedures and testing options is critical to having a safe and effective workplace in light of the opioid crisis.”