New law helps busi­nesses re­duce ad­dic­tion

Bill with lo­cal ori­gins ed­u­cates em­ploy­ees on drug-free liv­ing

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

This week, Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) signed into law a bill that orig­i­nated in Calvert County and gives a lit­tle boost to busi­nesses that com­mit to prac­tic­ing and preach­ing the im­por­tance of a drug-free work en­vi­ron­ment.

“Its in­ten­tion is [to] of­fer busi­ness own­ers dis­counts of up to 4 per­cent work­ers’ [com­pen­sa­tion] rates. In ex­change, they would need to de­clare their busi­ness a drug-free work­place,” said Bill Cham­bers, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com­merce, re­gard­ing SB505, “Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion In­surance — Pre­mium Dis­count — Al­co­hol- and DrugFree Work­place Pro­gram.”

Any busi­nesses in the state can opt into the pro­gram, but in or­der to make that drug-free dec­la­ra­tion, a busi­ness must an­nu­ally pro­vide train­ing and pro­grams to its em­ploy­ees on the short- and long-term health and safety risks of us­ing drugs. There is no re­quire­ment for manda­tory work­place drug test­ing in the bill.

“It’s an ed­u­ca­tion in­cen­tive for busi­nesses,” Cham­bers said.

The statewide leg­is­la­tion started in the county when Maria Buehler, a vol­un­teer with the Calvert Al­liance Against Sub­stance Abuse Inc., ap­proached Cham­bers a year ago about part­ner­ing to do some drug-free work­place train­ing for cham­ber mem­bers. The pair col­lab­o­rated.

“As a small busi­ness owner, I was wit­ness­ing what has been go­ing on in our com­mu­nity. I was faced with a sit­u­a­tion with a young lady work­ing for me and I had to let her go be­cause she had a sub­stance abuse prob­lem,” said Buehler, owner of Buehler’s Mar­ket­place in St. Leonard. “I wish I had the re­sources to push her in the right di­rec­tion. ... This to­tally led me to CAASA.”

Ac­cord­ing to the CAASA vol­un­teer, in 2015, 33 per­cent of Calvert County res­i­dents who went into treat­ment for opi­ate abuse were em­ployed full or part time. Fur­ther­more, in Calvert County alone, in the last five years there has been a 350 per­cent in­crease in re­quests for treat­ment for pre­scrip­tion drug abuse, said Buehler.

Buehler in­formed Cham­bers there was leg­is­la­tion en­acted in 13 states that pro­vides a re­duc­tion in work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion fees for busi­nesses that agree to im­ple­ment a drug-free work­place pol­icy and com­mit to an ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­gram for em­ploy­ees.

Mary­land did not have such a law. How­ever, Vir­ginia, West Vir­ginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and a hand­ful of states in the south­east and a few in the cen­tral re­gion have a sim­i­lar law on their books. Some state laws pro­vide as much as a 10 per­cent credit in work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion in­surance pre­mi­ums to en­cour­age busi­nesses to par­tic­i­pate.

Ac­cord­ing to Cham­bers, seiz­ing an op­por­tu­nity, the pair col­lab­o­rated, once again, en­list­ing the help of Se­nate Pres- ident Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) to get the ball rolling by iden­ti­fy­ing prin­ci­ples on a piece of leg­is­la­tion to ben­e­fit all of Mary­land’s busi­nesses.

The bill was in­tro­duced by Sen. Kather­ine Klaus­meier (D-Bal­ti­more County) and cross-filed in the House by Del. Michael A. Jack­son (D-Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s).

Cham­bers ac­knowl­edged the in­surance in­dus­try didn’t sup­port the bill, as its pass­ing would cut into the bot­tom line of in­surance car­ri­ers. How­ever, the bill did re­ceive over­whelm­ing sup­port from the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, in­clud­ing ho­tels and restau­rants from all over the state.

“This bill gets to the heart of busi­nesses that em­ploy a lot of part-time help,” said Cham­bers. “We re­ceived let­ters of sup­port from the Mary­land Ho­tel and Lodg­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, MGM Casino Re­sort in Na­tional Har­bor, and from all of the Na­tional Har­bor es­tab­lish­ments.”

Cham­bers said he was sur­prised the bill did not re­ceive sup­port from the Ocean City Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Ac­cord­ing to the Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion Fund, at www., sub­stance abusers are five times more likely to file work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claims. WCF rec­om­mends im­ple­ment­ing a drug-free work pol­icy to re­duce work­place in­juries. One in six work­place deaths in­volve drugs or al­co­hol use.

The Na­tional Drug-Free Work­place Al­liance re­ports that em­ploy­ers who im­ple­ment a drug-free work­place ex­pe­ri­ence a de­crease in work­place ac­ci­dents, em­ployee ab­sen­teeism, em­ployee turnover and work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claims.

Cham­bers said there is also a cor­re­la­tion be­tween a drug-free work en­vi­ron­ment and, with re­duced health care costs, im- proved em­ployee morale and fewer dis­ci­plinary prob­lems.

Na­tion­wide, 90 per­cent of large busi­nesses have drug-free work­place poli­cies, while 90 per­cent of small busi­nesses do not, ac­cord­ing to Buehler. CAASA has been proac­tively help­ing small busi­nesses in the county adopt a drug-free pol­icy and mit­i­gate prob­lems.

“We trained 20 busi­nesses last year,” Buehler said. “The ul­ti­mate goal is train­ing su­per­vi­sors on what they should be look­ing for and how they should han­dle sub­stance abuse.”

Those es­tab­lish­ments that par­tic­i­pated in CAASA’s train­ing re­ceived, at no cost, a drugfree busi­ness sign with the sub­stance abuse hot­line num­ber on it. Now they will have an ex­tra in­cen­tive — more money in their pock­ets — be­cause of the leg­is­la­tion borne out of the county’s need for re­sources.


Pic­tured, first row from left, are Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s), Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arun­del). Sec­ond row, from left, are Maria Buehler of CAASA, Bill Cham­bers of the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com­merce and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sen. Kather­ine Klaus­meier’s (D-Bal­ti­more County) of­fice and Ch­e­sa­peake In­surance, re­spec­tively, at this week’s bill sign­ing for SB505.

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