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Substance Abuse Assessments, Treatment and the ICI Construction Industry

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By: Julian Toy H.S.C. Substance Abuse Professional

I recently did a Substance Abuse Assessment for an employer and realised that there is not a lot of information available about this specific to the ICI sector, even for those with years of industry experience.

I decided to write this article detailing how an assessment works and treatment often works in the ICI sector.

The first thing I will discuss is the assessment process and the reasons for it.

If you have a worker who you think may have a substance abuse problem regardless of the circumstances, it is important to have that worker properly assessed to determine if they have a problem for several reasons.

1. Once an employer suspects the worker may have a disability, the employer must be able to demonstrate they have done their due diligence. Getting the worker assessed helps to demonstrate and document this.

2. An employer must accommodate those workers who have a moderate to severe substance use disorder up to the point of undue hardship.

3. If it was found through proper assessment, the worker had a mild substance use disorder they could be disciplined according to company policy without regard to accommodation as a mild substance use disorder is not considered a disability for Human Rights purposes.

The assessment answers one very important question: does the worker have an accommodatable disability or not?

It also provides the counselor with the information to protect a worker who is at risk of serious withdrawal symptoms. The counselor can at the company’s request, recommend specific treatment for the worker.

Without proper assessment, an employer is working in the dark and has no facts on which to base decisions.

The next thing I’m going to cover is the treatment system that has been created for most unionised employees in the ICI sector.

More than 200 unions are part of the De Novo Treatment Center. Located in Huntsville, Ontario, it is a 12 step, abstinence based, residential treatment center. A portion of the worker’s benefit deduction goes towards funding De Novo.

De Novo’s stated mission is ‘To provide the highest quality of substance abuse treatment for the Employers, Members within the unionized Construction Industry and their families.’

Every worker whose union has an agreement with De Novo is eligible for treatment once their drug and other benefits kick in, usually after 3 months of employment.

A typical stay at De Novo is 35 days as an inpatient. Union representatives would be able to tell an employer if they are part of De Novo.

I hope this helps ICI employers understand the purpose and benefits of the assessment process and clarify the role De Novo plays in the treatment of unionized construction workers in Ontario.

In the last analysis though most unions in the ICI industry have an established substance abuse treatment system, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure employees who have a disability are accommodated up to the point of undue hardship.


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