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Chamber's Drugs Don't Work program can help businesses

With last week's large drug bust on Ellington Avenue, some local attention was brought to the amount of drugs on the streets of Thomson. But the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce wants people to think about illegal drugs in the workplace.

The Chamber, in partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, sponsors a Drugs Don't Work program which assists businesses in becoming drug-free workplaces certified by the State of Georgia.

This certification entitles businesses to a seven and one-half percent discount on their workmen's compensation rates.

"Although we have the discount, our focus is trying to help get people off drugs," said Carolyn Gilbert, chamber director and Drugs Don't Work coordinator. "It makes a better employee, which makes a better business."

The U.S. Department of Labor has proven that drug-using employees file three to five times as many workers' comp claims as non drug-using employees. Drug users have 300 percent higher medical costs, are 3.6 times more likely to injure themselves or another person in a workplace accident, are 2.5 times more likely to be absent eight or more days a year, and are one-third less productive. The DOL report also said 74 percent of people who use illegal drugs are employed.

"Drug use in the workplace is common, because people know that the one place policemen are not going to be is at the work site. You think if you had an employee on drugs, you'd know about it, but you don't. People think they know everybody, but they don't," Mrs. Gilbert said.

The Chamber holds two workshops each year to assist companies in acquiring certification as a drug-free workplace. The workshop fee is $25, but the 2006 dates have not been scheduled yet.

In order to join, Mrs. Gilbert said businesses must be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Currently, approximately 35 businesses in Thomson-McDuffie are certified. Certification must be renewed each year, and Mrs. Gilbert said many businesses think they are certified, but may have lost their status due to a change in staff or not keeping their reports updated.

In addition to the workers compensation discount, Drugs Don't Work certification provides group discounts on drug testing, employee assistance programs, supervisor training and employee substance abuse education.

Mrs. Gilbert said although the program requires drug screenings, it is not a "witch hunt," nor does the Chamber seek to see anyone fired from their job. The program is based on intervention, assistance and incentive.

Anyone interested in certifying their business as drug-free may call Mrs. Gilbert at the Chamber of Commerce in Thomson, 706-597-1000.

Web posted on Thursday, February 23, 2006

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