June 6, 2021

Bouncing Back at NDASA’s Conference & Tradeshow

By Christine

If anyone knows how to turn Setbacks into Bouncebacks, it’s the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association!  The end of our 2020 convention dovetailed with the beginning of the pandemic. Our 2021 Conference & Tradeshow in St. Louis, May 25-27, marked the reopening of the country. Our member-owned association celebrated getting together again in grand fashion!  With 250 live attendees and more than 80 individuals and organizations joining in virtually, NDASA put on an amazing event with top-notch training programs, compelling speakers, relevant industry content and valuable networking opportunities. 

Thank you to our organizing committee, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. Without all of you, this conference would not have been possible, and we are extremely grateful to each of you for your presence and participation.

The Why of Workplace Safety

It’s always effective to start a conference with THE WHY of what we do. Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, kicked things off perfectly with his compelling keynote address that emphasized the common goals of NDASA and SHRM in keeping workplaces safe and the value of our partnership. Taylor also focused on the importance of acceptance, diversity and dignity at work. 

Live and virtual attendees alike agreed that this was one of the best keynote speeches at ANY conference they have ever attended. Taylor spoke about changes in the workplace that the pandemic has created, some of which may be permanent and some that may fade away. 

He called on attendees to consider the following:

  • More than half of employees surveyed said they want to work for a company that requires COVID vaccinations. 
  • In general, employees indicate that they will feel safe at work when 70 percent of the people are vaccinated.
  • Employers may need to be open to hybrid work options moving forward, with flexible schedules and work-from-home elements. But they will also need to keep in mind how these impact individuals, their mental health and the workplace culture.

Industry Advocacy

The NDASA Governmental Affairs Committee session reviewed the importance of NDASA’s advocacy and partnerships in Washington, D.C., the State Partner referralss met to discuss their role of being ambassadors of the organization within their states and as liaisons to NDASA. NDASA Chairman Jim Greer and Vice Chairman Brian Drew underscored the fact that it’s imperative that NDASA continues to advocate on behalf of our industry with the proper people on Capitol Hill through our PAC.  In 2020, the association’s advocacy work successfully introduced a safety carveout in the MORE Act, a bill that was seeking to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. These types of efforts are more important than ever as local, state and federal laws continue to change, and some organizations lobby to get rid of drug testing altogether. Stay tuned for information regarding an Advocacy Day in the spring in D.C. where members can join in to support NDASA and our industry! 

Regulatory Updates and Reminders

Of course, our meeting would not have been complete without updates from all of our U.S. Department of Transportation agencies. Patrice Kelly of the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance earned the Industry Leadership Award in recognition of her exceptional leadership to the drug and alcohol testing industry and shared some valuable reminders and updates including:

  • The revised 2020 DOT CCF does not include donor instructions on the back, and has a section for oral fluid testing, even though the DOT has not approved oral fluid testing yet. Kelly recommends that you print and laminate donor instructions and provide them to the donor. You can use the old form through 8/30/2021
  • Make sure all collectors are signed up for the ODAPC listserv
  • Collectors need to do a better job reporting shy bladder situations to the MRO. 
  • The employer must make the decision about what is considered a test refusal.
  • As a collector, you cannot ask a donor to remove religious headwear (unless you believe that the donor is trying to hide something.)
  • When the MRO cancels a test – IT’S OVER!

Testing Trends

Dr. Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics earned the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding service and meaningful contributions to the drug and alcohol testing industry. Sample and Quest’s Ashlyn Hazard educated us, once again, on the trends in the workplace for positive drug test results.  A few key takeaways from Quest’s annual Drug Testing Index that were released at the conference include:

  • The overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce based on more than seven million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2020 was down only slightly in 2020 (4.4%) compared to 2019 (4.5%, a sixteen-year high).
  • Positivity in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce based on more than 2 million urine drug tests declined 8.3 percent (2.4% in 2019 versus 2.2% in 2020) but was still 10 percent higher than the 2016 rate (5 years prior).
  • In the general U.S. workforce, positivity increased 3.8 percent (5.3% in 2019 versus 5.5% in 2020) and was 12.2 percent higher than in 2016.
  • As positivity for most drug categories, other than marijuana, declined or remained flat in the combined U.S. workforce over the past five years, amphetamines (which includes methamphetamine) persisted at 1.1 percent positive each year.

“Driven largely by surging rates of marijuana general U.S. workforce positives and steady rates of amphetamines positives, the rate of drug positivity remained stubbornly high despite seismic shifts to the workplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sample. “However, as we see upticks in hiring and many employees returning to the workplace, it is important that employers consider workforce drug testing as a way to keep the workplace, their customers and the community safe.”

Today’s Marijuana

Alex Berenson, author of Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, and Dr. Kevin Sabet, of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), leading experts on the marijuana contemporary industry and the dangers of today’s more potent form of the drug, shared through-provoking information about the increase in marijuana-induced psychosis and the marijuana industry’s marketing strategies that put profit before public health.

Needless to say, it was wonderful to gather again to share ideas, information and much-needed laughs after a tough year for everyone!  Don’t forget, if you missed it, you can still view the conference in its entirety for the next few weeks by registering for the virtual package.

Save the Dates

Finally, be sure to mark your calendars for the 2022 Conference May 3rd – 5th in Indianapolis, where we will Start our Engines!  You can register now on the website for early-bird pricing!

Additional Conference Highlights

[showlibraryitem id=157]