Do you have what it takes to be a SAP?

Sunday, July 14, 2013 • San Diego, CA 92121

In regards to drug testing, SAP stands for Substance Abuse Professional and is the person responsible for taking employees who have failed drug tests and walking them through the process to return to work.

By interviewing and testing the employee, the SAP assesses the situation of the employee and recommends treatment for the individual and evaluates the employee's potential to be able to maintain a drug/alcohol free lifestyle and return to work.  

How to become a SAP

To become a SAP, you will need to be one of the following:-

  • Licensed physician
  • Licensed or certified social worker
  • Licensed or certified psychologist
  • Licensed or certified employee assistant professional
  • State licensed or certified marriage and family therapist
  • Drug and alcohol counselor certified by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission or the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol Other Drug Abuse or the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc and Affiliates/Master Addiction Counselors.

You must also be knowledgeable about:-

  • And have clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse related disorders
  • How a SAP function relates to employer interests in safety-sensitive duties
  • The DOT's required procedures for conducting workplace drug and alcohol testing (49 CFR Part 40, Subpart O, Section 40.281)

You are also required to undergo training in:-

  • Background, rationale and coverage of DOT's drug and alcohol testing program;
  • 49 CFR Part 40 and DOT agency drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations;
  • Key DOT drug testing requirements;
  • Key DOT alcohol testing requirements; and
  • SAP qualifications and prohibitions.

And the SAP's role in the return-to-duty process, which includes:-

  • Initial employee evaluation;
  • Referrals for educations and/or treatment;
  • Follow-up evaluation procedures;
  • Scheduling and procedures for the follow-up testing plans;
  • Recommendations for continued treatment;
  • SAP consultation and communication with employers, MROs and treatment providers;
  • Requirements for reporting and the keeping of records; and
  • Issues that SAPs have to deal with while performing their duties in this program.

After your SAP basic training, you must pass an examination administered by a nationally recognized professional or training organization, after which you will receive your initial SAP certification.

For every three year period after you've become certified, you must also complete a minimum of 12 professional development hours relevant to your SAP duties to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.

What does a SAP do on the job?

As part of your job, you will recommend measures that an employee who has failed a drug test needs to take for a successful return to work.

Your job duties will include:-

  • Initial evaluation of the employee in a face-to-face interview;
  • Education and/or treatment referral;
  • Recommendation for continuing treatment;
  • A minimum of two face-to-face therapy sessions with the employee;
  • A minimum of six follow-up drug tests;
  • SAP consultation with employers, MROs and treatment providers; and
  • Reporting and recording data as required.

Prior to returning to duties that are safety-sensitive, the employee will have to have a face-to-face follow-up evaluation with you, the SAP, to determine if the individual has demonstrated a level of compliance with the treatment that warrants a return to work. You will also provide written documentation to the employer that details all of the continuing care recommendations, plus the follow-up testing plan.

If the training and certification to become a SAP seems like a lot, that's only because it is. But SAPs are bastions of public safety, so it's imperative that their training be not only comprehensive, but ongoing.