Snowshoe Proves You Can Have a Drug Abuse Free Workplace

Marlinton, WV – Tracey Samples, Human Resources Director for Snowshoe Mountain Resort posed a provocative question to the crowd gathered at a recent summit on prescription drug abuse.

“Do you guys ever remember hearing anybody say the reason why there are drugs in Pocahontas County is because of Snowshoe” says Samples “cause they bring all these drugs in here. And you know what – they probably were contributing to the problem.”

Samples says it wasn’t just the community who shared that belief – they heard it from resort employees too.

“And for several years employees started saying “Hey, I’m tired of working with people on drugs; I’m tired of coming to work every day with somebody snorting a line of Coke in the lift shack” she says. “I don’t want my kids to come to work here because I don’t want them to get involved with drugs.”

So five years ago, Snowshoe Mountain Resort did something rare in the ski industry – they started doing pre-employment drug testing on all new and some returning employees. In fact Samples says they’re the only resort in the vast Intrawest Corporation family to do so. She says for some employees, who’ve gone through the process, it’s been a life changing event.

Samples says the most common drug found during testing is marijuana, followed by prescription drugs. If the prescription is legitimate, the employee will pass the test. But she says many fail because they’ve taken drugs prescribed to someone else, usually a spouse.

As of this year, Samples says they’ve added year round employees to the pool of random drug test candidates. She says overall the program has been a success with a few bumps along the way as they perfected their testing methods. She urged other business to form coalitions to pool funding for drug testing of their employees.

Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese says because of the prescription drug problem, Pocahontas is a county in crisis. He says while all counties in the state have drug problems, few have the high level of prescription drug abuse that is present here. He paints a bleak picture of what could happen if the county stays on its present course.

“We’re moving into two very different, distinct communities in the county” says Jonese. “One being the upscale area of Snowshoe with all the restaurants, fancy condominiums and nice homes; the other side is going to be the remnants of a failed community that we live in now where business is going to be virtually nonexistent [and] nonfunctioning.”

Jonese bases that prediction on daily observations within the community, data from county and federal agencies, court records, and his own law enforcement records. He says in 2009, his department wrote over 900 citations for drug and alcohol violations. Of the 133 felony arrests during that year, 50 were for prescription drugs.

Jonese says this has a devastating effect on families in the county. Of the almost 200 Dept of Health and Human Resources investigations in 2009, he says 134 involved the use of drugs and at least 36 children were removed from their homes. Jonese says other statistics are more grim.

“In one month in this county, five kids lost a parent to a drug overdose” says Jonese. “It was not all one family, it was numerous families. Five kids lost a parent – that’s an effect we can’t measure.”

Jonese says his focus is on those 25 to 40 years old. He says this group is the primary age group with families, but also the primary age group who are drug offenders. He suggests a three pronged approach to the problem through law enforcement, prevention and cultural change.

“You are the eyes and ears of this community” says Jonese. “It’s going to affect every one of us; you need to step up to the plate and deal with it now because if not, you’re going to be calling me later.”

Sheriff Jonese says he’ll soon add a tip line that goes directly to his office and will set up a drop box for anonymous tips as well.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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