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American Samoa launches its first drug and alcohol policy for civil servants

American Samoa Executive Office Building
A “zero tolerance” approach — but provides counseling assistance programs
Source: ASG media release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  Acting Governor of American Samoa, Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga has launched the territory’s first policy on how to manage and support civil servants who are experiencing drug or alcohol related problems in the workplace. 

The American Samoa Government Drug and Alcohol Policy aims to provide clear guidance on the management of staff with drug related issues in addition to taking a preventative approach, which focuses on raising awareness.

Lemanu says any use of drugs and alcohol at work is not tolerated because it can affect the health and safety of American Samoa Government employees. This is a comprehensive strategy to educate members of the public, not just employees of ASG about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

“The policy is important because we cannot ignore this issue and people need to be made aware we have a zero tolerance approach.”

Under the policy, all employees entering the workplace may be tested for drugs by Department of Health or LBJ Tropical Medical Center.

The Acting Governor said people have a need to understand there are now clear guidelines to manage staff that comes to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Prevention is the best way; however, we are providing support for people who have drug and alcohol problems through counseling assistance programs funded by the government,” he said. The policy supports awareness campaigns with the view that education provides a key preventative approach.

“We are committed to supporting the education of employees by conducting information sessions and offering specialist prevention programs presented by external representatives,” he said.

Government directors and managers will be assisted in implementing the policy within their departments and will be supported in developing strategies to:

  • Deal appropriately with work performance and conduct problems caused by misuse of abuse of alcohol and other drugs;
  • Protect confidentiality;
  • Refer affected employees to counseling;
  • Provide education and information for managers and employees on the policy.

ASG recognizes that substance abuse is a treatable condition and alcoholism and other drug addictions are recognized as diseases that are responsive to proper treatment.

Employees are responsible for acknowledging their substance abuse

Director of the Department of Human Resources, Eseneiaso J. Liu echoes the same sentiments saying, “ASG employees affected by drugs or alcohol may not only endanger themselves and the people they surround, but they can also cause costly damage to the government’s daily operations therefore ASG shall ensure to the best of its ability that all personnel under its control and authority will not at any time, during the performance of their work, take or be under the influence of any alcoholic liquor, drug or other intoxicating substance, whilst on duty, other than for bona fide medical reasons.”

The use of any form of unauthorized drugs or alcohol on the job, or the arrival of any person at the workplace under the influence of any form of drug or alcohol will be a cause for disciplinary action up to and including, if appropriate, dismissal.

The Fono in October 2018 passed legislation to regulate appropriate and uniform alcohol and drug testing procedures for all ASG employees. The law covers the collection of samples, their analysis and the interpretation and declaration of test results.

The legislation is intended to ensure that tests are conducted according to medical practices and high quality laboratory standards, and to safeguard individual rights and privacy.

Each respective government department director would make requests for employee referrals to the Director of the DHR who will then refer employees to DOH or LBJ Hospital to get tested for drugs or alcohol. 

The results from each individual test will be collected by the DHR in close collaboration with the medical review officer or substance abuse professional.

Employees referred for testing are to be informed of the reasons and procedure of the tests.