Who are the Service Agents for Drug & Alcohol Testing?

In the business of drug and alcohol testing, there are various service providers that are commonly called Service Agents.  If you are thinking about getting into the drug & alcohol testing business you will want to review these various service agents to determine what service agents you will become and what services you will offer.

  • Specimen Collectors (the collector) – These folks operate on a mobile basis traveling to and from client locations and/or work from a brick and mortar facility. The specimen collector works directly for the client, the laboratory, the third party administrator (TPA) or others.  The collector is collecting a biological specimen (urine, hair, blood, sweat or oral fluid-saliva) for a testing device or a laboratory to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolites.
  • Collection Site: A facility where specimens are collected. This could be the employer’s place of business.  Typically this is a brick and mortar facility, it could be a TPA office, a medical facility, hospital, occupational health clinic, walk in clinic, doctor’s offices – any type of business that might have a set up for urine collections and employ collectors to collect specimens.  Major laboratories such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp operate brick and mortar facilities that employ collectors to collect specimens; these are commonly referred to as Patient Service Centers (PSC’s).  Other laboratories have contracts with occupational health clinics, walk in clinics, doctor’s offices and other facilities that operate brick and mortar facilities to collect specimens. 
  • Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) and/or Screening Test Technician (STT) – commonly a collector also, the BAT or STT is a person who instructs and assists persons in the alcohol testing process and operates an evidential breath testing device (Breathalyzer) or an alcohol screening device. These folks also operate on a mobile basis traveling to and from client locations and/or work at collection site; they also work directly for the client, the laboratory, the third party administrator (TPA) or others.
  • Laboratories (Lab) – After collection from the donor, a specimen is sealed with a tamper-evident seal and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The primary advantages of utilizing a laboratory for testing include compliance with regulations, accuracy, legal defensibility, and the ability to customize tests for the needs of you client. A laboratory is a brick and mortar facility that does the testing, not the facility that collects the specimen.  Folks get confused about this and say I’m going to the lab for my drug test, they actually mean they are going to the collection site for specimen collection.  A very big investment is required to own and operate a laboratory.  Major laboratories currently involved with drug testing include Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, MedToxAlere Toxicologyand Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL) – there are many others also both regional and national laboratories. 

    Testing for Federal Agency employees, DOT testing program and many State laws stipulate using labs that are certified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Commonly called SAMHSA certified labs, it is a best practice to always use these labs which have required quality control standards and a rigorous inspection process to insure accurate test results.  SAMHSA maintains a current list of certified laboratories available at:
    http://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/resources/drug-testing/certified-lab-list
  • Medical Review Officer (MRO) – A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a person who is a licensed physician and who is responsible for receiving and reviewing laboratory results generated by an employer’s drug testing program and evaluating medical explanations for certain drug test results. The MRO receives the laboratory drug test results from the lab and reports the results to the employer. Many TPA’s have in house MRO’s working for them.  For Federal Programs, DOT programs and under many State laws and State law programs the MRO must be trained, qualified and certified by a nationally-recognized MRO certification board or subspecialty board for medical practitioners in the field of medical review of DOT-mandated drug tests. The MRO is required for testing for Federal Agency employees, DOT testing programs and under many State laws and State law programs.  It is a best practice to use an MRO for all workplace laboratory drug testing.Walk in Clinics, Hospitals, Doctors Offices, and Occupational Health Clinics – All of these types of facilities might be in the drug and alcohol testing business perhaps as collection sites, third party administrators (TPA) and/or Medical Review Officers (MRO). All are potential competitors and/or potential clients and most definitely potential strategic partners for a TPA. Due diligence, care and verification is required to insure these facilities have the proper training and qualifications to provide any services you are requesting.Background Check Providers – Companies that are in the providing background check services such as criminal history checks often also sell drug & alcohol testing services. In fact, several of the largest providers of drug testing are actually background check providers.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Provider – EAP’s are employee benefit programs offered by many employers, many times in conjunction with a health insurance plan. EAPs help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include assessment, short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members. Employers will refer employees with drug and/or alcohol problems to the EAP.
  • Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) – Under DOT regulations, the SAP is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare. There are credentials and certifications required by DOT for one to be a qualified to act as a SAP (40.281).
  • Policy Consultant or Writer – A TPA often provides to employer clients a service of developing written drug and alcohol testing policies. TPA’s sometimes have in house policy consultants or outsource this function. This manual includes a further discussion of developing drug free workplace policies.
  • Third Party Administrator (TPA) – This is basically a service provider that provides two or more of the services involved in the drug testing process. A TPA or C/TPA might coordinate for an employer the entire process of the specimen collection, breath alcohol testing, the laboratory testing, the review and reporting by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) thereby providing all of these services under a one stop shop. A TPA will typically provide everything to the employer client to keep the client in compliance with the applicable regulations – DOT, State Laws etc. 

For more information about the drug testing business and for expert consultation contact Joe Reilly at 321-622-2020.