A telephone lineman in Michigan with a penchant for blended whiskey has curtailed his drinking - and his absenteeism - and is back on the job after a brief stint at a detoxification and counseling center. Bell Telephone Co. sent there and paid the bill.
Standard Oil Co. of California is treating one of its executives for a bad case of too many martinis lunches - before the martinis become more important to him than the job.
At the State Department, an administrator's secretary has been referred to a special alcoholism program within the agency to find out if her drinking habit has anything to do with her tardiness habit. The treatment is confidential and free - courtesy of the federal government.
Throughout the country, business, government and labor are joining forces to fight alcoholism where it usually can be identified first, on the job. And both management and labor are finding that a company program designed to treat employes with drinking problems is mutually beneficial.
"It's good for the individual because it returns him to a position as a respected member of his family and helps him to become a productive member of society again," said Dr. Ruth V. Karrh, medical director of the Du Pont Co. and a director of the National Council on Alcoholism. "From the company's standpoint, we are able to benefit from resumed productivity of a trained individual who has been a good employe and has every expectation of again being a good employe."
Alcoholism's cost to society in 1976 was $43 billion, including about $20 billion in lost productivity and wages and $12 billion in health and medical costs, according to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare's National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAA). About half the alcoholics in the United States, or about 5 million persons, are employes.
At least half of those referred are helped, with some companies reporting recovery rates as high as 80 percent, according to Dr. Paul Sherman, president of the Association of Labor, Management, Administrators and Consultants on Alcoholism and director of occupational alcoholism programs at International Telephone & Telegraph Co. in New York.
A recent General Motors Corp. study shows decreases of 50 per cent in lost work hours and 30 percent in health problems among employes treated for alcoholism. And an Oct. 31 report of the NIAA shows that, among employes treated at International Harvester Co., there were reductions of 40 per cent in absenteeism and 50 per cent in disability payments.
Du Pont was the first company in the nation to realize the corporate benefits of an occupational alcoholism program. It instituted the first program of its kind in 1942, closely followed by Eastman Kodak.
Today, the list of businesses and industries with occupational alchoholism programs reads like a who's who of the New York Stock Exchange.
The largest company in the country, the federal government, also mandated occupational alcoholism programs for federal employes in 1951 with the same legislation that created the NIAA.
"We use the job as the lever to get the alcoholic to face the problem and do something about it," said Dr. Sherman, a psychologist and recovered alcoholic. "The employe (at ITT) is given a choice: If his performance drops to an unacceptable level and he is not responding to corrective measures, he will either accept a referral to the alcoholism program or risk being fired."
Dr. Sherman noted that years before a drinking problem appears, there is a marked decline in job performance.
"By keeping the focus on performance, then anything that relates to productivity can be referred," Dr. Sherman said. "We find we are also picking up an equal number of other problems, like emotional and family problems which can lead to alcoholism."
Many of the companies have special training programs to alert management personnel and union shop stewards to the correlation between a drop in productivity and possible alcoholism.
"If performance drops at all, they just talk to the person," Dr. Sherman said. "We tell the supervisors if you've tried talking to the employe and it happens again we refer the person to the program."
Dr. Sherman said there is very little stigma attached to the program because all medical records are kept confidential and separate from personnel files. In most cases, in fact, the employe is not treated at the company but is referred to some outside source.
However, despite the apparent benefits of occupational alcoholism programs to both management and labor, Sherman said of the nearly 1200 companies that have programs, only but 300 currently are working well.
Donald Phillips, U.S. Civil Service alcoholism and drug abuse program manager, said the program has "treated 30,000 employes since 1972, and about 75 per cent of all federal employes are covered by the programs.
"Some of our programs are highly effective like the one in the Government Printing Office. Some of them are just paper programs.
"What we have is a resource problem - no money and no personnel to administer these programs," Phillips said.