by Lori Anderson
As the mother of a former ten-year employee of Fairfax County Wastewater Management, I am seeking answers on plans to address the opioid crisis in our county. I felt assured that the county would help him.
That didn’t happen. Memorandum 32 is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the county’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). None of the guidance in that SOP was followed. Under a disciplinary action, he was sent to a Phoenix House in Arlington for two weeks. I visited and was completely taken aback at the lack of any supervision or family counseling. There was no sign-in at the door, residents were unsupervised and were free to go outside without restriction, and my son had his cell phone the entire two weeks as in patient. Nobody from Phoenix House ever contacted me He then was required to attend several weeks of outpatient day treatment before returning back to work at the beginning of August 2017.
After returning to work, there was no mandatory drug testing or accountability of any kind by his leadership as required under Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations spelled out in the solicitation. In November 2017, he reported to work and was directed by his supervisor to drive a county vehicle to Springfield. Ten minutes after he arrived at the Springfield location, his supervisor showed up and said that he was acting strange back at the yard and took him for a drug test, which he failed. He was immediately terminated.
Thanks to the Community Services Board (CSB), he has been clean and free of any drugs for one year June 8th and is working two jobs rebuilding his life.
When he was admitted to the Community Services Board for in patient treatment at A New Beginning, the following June, he was totally supervised at all times, his diet contained no caffeine or sugar, any visitors were required to be drug tested and interviewed. There were group family counseling sessions on Monday nights and a Mothers group the first Friday of every month. It was an intense four month stay that worked. It began first with detox before being moved to the residential unit when a bed became available. Counselors called me at home to gather family history, and counsel and support me.
My research into Fairfax Counties EAP contract with Inova (which was re-competed last year and awarded to Cigna) found that there were no cost to the county, for profit recovery programs attached to the contract. These for profit companies are in it for the insurance money. Once it runs out, any treatment ends.
Cigna holds 3 of the 4 health insurance plans available to county employees. Kaiser holds the 4th. With Cigna also holding the EAP contract, this one company is effectively holding all our health insurance eggs in one basket for possibly a decade. None of the four plans consider the CSB as “in-network.” The only in-network treatment center that I could locate in the Cigna EAP contract was, again, Phoenix House.
Since taxpayers fund the health insurance plans of county employees, I want to know why these for-profit companies, who have absolutely no vested interest in our community, are being used instead of our CSB. It was the CSB that treated my son as an indigent. An additional expense to the taxpayer. This is one of the best treatment programs anywhere and should be an example to the rest of the country.
I know for a fact that there have been overdoses on county property. Their coworkers sneak them out because they fear that what happened to my son will happen to them. With almost 14,000 county employees, nobody has any idea what percentage is struggling with addiction.
We should encourage these employees to come out and assure them that they will be treated with dignity and that help, through the CSB, will be made available while they still have taxpayer funded health insurance. The CSB is in dire need of funding, because the need in the community is greater than the resources they have to treat them. A program such as this could serve as a shinning example to the rest of the country in how to deal with this ever increasing national health emergency.
The CSB will end up treating county residents as indigent causing a double expense to county taxpayers. None of the DPWES Supervisors are required to take Revive training offered for free by the CSB and The Chris Atwood Foundation nor do they have Narcan onsite.
My son’s recovery cost us almost $100,000 after all was said and done, and he lost everything he had worked for in 10 years. Let alone the additional cost to the taxpayer to hire and train someone to replace him.
I don’t want to see one more person go through this. Had my son died, it would have been on Fairfax County and their policies.
It’s not whether a county employee dies on the County’s time, it’s when.