Disturbing reports

Published 12:04 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

It’s a problem few would want to acknowledge: Beaufort County employers are having trouble finding qualified applicants who can pass drug tests.

The problem, apparently, is widespread, though just how widespread depends on which sources you tap.

Some local businesses reported no or few difficulties finding drug-free applicants.

But Washington police Chief Mick Reed acknowledged he’s seen the issue firsthand.

“I can tell you that a significant percentage of applicants for the City of Washington Police Department, it becomes a hurdle — either past history or the inability to pass a drug test,” Reed said in an interview Thursday.

Jim Chrisman, assistant Beaufort County manager and finance officer, reported no such barriers to employment with the county in his eight years on the job.

“I honestly can tell you I don’t recall a time when we’ve had a negative drug test for a potential applicant,” Chrisman said.

Other also-reliable sources are getting different feedback, among them Patrick Oswalt, manager of the N.C. Employment Security Commission’s Washington office.

“I’ve had some complaints in passing, some in frustration, from most employers,” Oswalt said.

And we know there have been significant amounts of drug-related arrests in our county recently.

Though there is some disagreement as to how big an influence illegal substances have on the local job market, there is no doubt the problem exists.

So, there must be more public-private investment of time, energy and funds in treatment programs to help those who have fallen prey to illicit drugs.

For some locals, the hoped-for economic recovery may go hand in hand with an ongoing recovery from substance abuse.