By Christine Tatum, CEO of Media Salad,Inc.
I am not a drug-testing professional. I do not keep the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website bookmarked. I have no testing companies, specimen collectors or Medical Review Officers on speed dial. And when I hear people speaking in industry acronyms, such as BAT, DER and STT, I try to smile politely and pretend I know what in the world they’re talking about.
So, let’s just say I never envisioned myself attending any conference, never mind a national conference, hosted by the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association. But by the time the recent meeting in Indianapolis ended, I’ll be darned if I didn’t have my communications consulting firm, Media Salad, join the organization and write a check to support NDASA’s political action committee. And to really solidify things, I bent the ears of several conference attendees, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Patrice Kelly and Drug Recognition Expert and retired police officer Chuck Marting, to tell them I not only plan to return to NDASA meetings, but hope to take several friends with me. Everyone needs to know more about NDASA’s noble mission to encourage excellence in an industry that promotes safety at home, in communities, in workplaces, on roadways, in schools and in hospitals through testing that aims to prevent drug abuse and swiftly intervene to address it.
Drug abuse and addiction? Those are two things I know well because I am married to a psychiatrist and clinical researcher who specializes in the treatment of adolescents with Substance Use Disorder. For more than two decades, I have watched him step into absolutely horrifying situations. I also have seen how his work — which is aided mightily by the accountability drug testing provides — has changed the trajectory of lives representing every race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Addiction doesn’t care how much money or formal education people have. It doesn’t care where they work. Anyone caught in its iron-clad grip tends not to let where they work, study or drive — or anything else for that matter — get in between them and their preferred substances. Potential harm to self and others — including the employers NDASA members often emphasize — is of little concern. And those employers include we, the people. Substance abuse and addiction rob our nation of school completion; workforce development; military preparedness; and our country’s most precious natural resource, the developing brain.
Given what I know to be true of substance abuse and its often irreparable damages, I want to connect NDASA members — all of you device and software developers, data analysts, specimen collectors, Medical Review Officers, drug policy creators, testing center managers, and sincerely caring employer representatives — to an even wider array of professionals. If anything, I spent a great deal of this year’s conference thinking about how to build those bridges because there are so many clinicians, counselors, school principals, parents, coaches and store managers who need to know about the tools and resources you could provide to help them prevent and address substance-related problems. On the flip side, I sense many of those people at work all around us could help NDASA members never lose sight that they are not merely following rules and regs or checking boxes on an array of forms, but saving lives instead.
Throughout the recent conference, NDASA’s newly re-elected Board Chairman Jim Greer said the organization is member-owned and member-driven — and that members often get out of NDASA what they make time to put into it. So, I’m going to spend some time working on ways to bring more community stakeholders to NDASA’s 2023 national conference. I invite you to contact me with your ideas about what this could look like — and I already hope to see you in Bellview, WA next spring.
Christine Tatum is chief executive officer of Media Salad, Inc., which has teamed with NDASA to produce NDASAUniversity.com, where people can complete gold-standard training, and NDASA members can find new business opportunities. She is also a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and the co-author of Clearing the Haze: Helping Families Face Teen Addiction. She welcomes hearing from other NDASA members at firstname.lastname@example.org.