What is a Substance Abuse Professional? –Thriveworks Chesterfield
A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), in accordance with the guidelines of the DOT, is a professional who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning the education, treatment, follow-up testing and aftercare of that person. The SAP works as a “gatekeeper” of the process by providing a vital service to the employee, the employer and the traveling public.
According to the U.S. DOT, a SAP “represents the major decision point (and, in some cases, the only decision point) an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee behind the steering wheel of a school bus, in the cockpit of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car, or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline.”
The SAP’s responsibility to the public is enormous. He is in the role of ensuring that the employee has successfully complied with his recommendation. The traveling public’s safety is paramount.
As an employee who performs safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, employees are responsible for providing a safe work environment for their co-workers and the traveling public. The U.S. DOT overview states, “Creating a safe work environment not only means following established work rules, but also following the DOT’s rules on drug use and alcohol misuse.”
Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991
The U.S. DOT tests employees for drug and/or alcohol violations in accordance with the following. “After several significant transportation accidents, Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, because it recognized the safety need for ensuring drug-and-alcohol-free transportation employees. The “Act” required DOT agencies to implement drug testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in the aviation, trucking (including school bus drivers and certain limousine and van drivers), railroads, mass transit, and pipelines industries. In 1994, the DOT added alcohol testing requirements to its regulations.
At Thriveworks in Chesterfield, the SAPs are professionally licensed and knowledgeable of the DOT guidelines. They have the following:
- Clinical experience in the diagnosis of substance abuse-related disorders.
- An understanding of how the SAP role relates to the responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety of the traveling public.
- Meet all SAP standards and training requirements.
- Hold qualifications and credentials to fill the role of SAP.
- Regularly attend continuing education activities.
- Demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of reporting that the employee has or has not complied with the SAP’s recommendation.
- Have a passing score on the examination for the role of SAP.
- Understand the U.S. DOT’s expanded and revised drug use and alcohol misuse prevention rules for the commercial transportation industries.
- Possess the background and reasoning of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing program.
- Know the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing rules.
- Knowledge of DOT drug testing requirements, such as laboratory testing and collections.
- Understand the role of the SAP in the initial employee evaluation, referrals for education and/or treatment, the follow-up evaluation, continuing treatment recommendation and the follow-up testing plan.
- Knowledge of reporting and record-keeping requirements.
What Must I do to Return to Duty?
SAPs do not make a “fitness for duty” determination as part of the re-evaluation (unless required to do so under an applicable DOT agency regulation). The employer (the DOT) decides whether the employee should be placed back to work in a safety-sensitive position. In short, the SAP is the person who verifies if the employee has successfully complied with his initial recommendation.
What Do SAPs Do?
According to DOT regulations, a SAP must:
- Conduct an initial face-to-face employee evaluation and clinical assessment to determine the level of assistance necessary for an employee who is identified as having alcohol and/or drug-associated problems.
- Recommend and refer the employee to an appropriate education and/or treatment program.
- Monitor the employee’s progress in the education and/or treatment process through regular contact with the treatment provider to check on the employee’s progress and to determine if the recommendation needs to be adjusted or changed.
- The next contact the SAP has with the employee will be for a follow-up evaluation at the completion of education and/or treatment.
- Provide the Designated Employer Representative with the follow-up evaluation of the employee and a drug and/or alcohol-testing plan for the employee.
It is important to note that the SAP does not provide counseling of the employee. Instead, the SAP is the professional who makes the recommendations for the appropriate education and/or treatment, follow-up tests and aftercare.
Who is qualified to be a SAP?
Credentials are mandatory to act as a SAP. In order to fill this vital role, an individual must possess one of the following credentials.
- Licensed physician (Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy).
- Licensed or certified social worker.
- Licensed or certified psychologist.
- Licensed or certified employee assistance professional.
- State-Licensed marriage and family therapist.
- A drug and alcohol counselor certified by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission; or by the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse; or by the National Board for certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates/Master Addictions Counselor.
SAPs and Continuing Education
To be considered a SAP, continuing education is a critical component of eligibility. During each three-year period from the date which an individual satisfactorily completes the examination, he must complete continuing education that includes at least 12 professional development hours relevant to performing SAP functions.
How Soon Can I Get an Appointment With the SAP?
Thriveworks SAPs typically schedule initial evaluations within five business days. In addition, the SAP’s recommendation about appropriate education and/or treatment program is dependent on your specific needs, which includes the presence of and, if identified, severity of your drug or alcohol problem. The SAP will identify the level of drug and/or alcohol use in order to make the recommendation about education and/or treatment.
Commonly Abused Drugs
The following is a list of a few of the most commonly abused drugs.
- Prescription drugs and cold medicines
- Steroids (anabolic)