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ASG plans to set up detox center and rehab service

(l-r) Deputy Police Commissioner, Vaimaga Maiava; local Homeland Security director Samana Semo Ve’ave’a; Human Resources director Eseneiaso Liu; Human and Social Services deputy director Muavaefa’atasi John Suisala, and Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, testifying Wednesday before a Senate committee on a bill requiring drug testing for ASG employees, including elected officials.  [photo: FS]
Sen. Faiivae: At this point, the only type of rehab is jail

A drug rehabilitation service and facility are included in the government’s plan, as ASG tackles the drug problem in American Samoa, which Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says is “poisoning our way of life and we must act now to root it out.”

Provisions of a Senate bill that would require all ASG employees, including contractors and elected officials to be tested for drugs and alcohol, states in part that when an employee is tested and determined to have improperly used alcohol and illegal drugs, the said employee may be offered a reasonable opportunity for rehabilitation, consistent with Human Resources Department policy.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Paepae Iosefa Faiai and Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua, was the subject of Wednesday’s Senate Public Safety/ Homeland Security Committee hearing where questions regarding a local rehabilitation facility or service were raised.

Responding to a committee question, Department of Human and Social Services deputy director Muavaefa’atasi John Suisala said that as far as DHSS knows, the territory has no rehabilitation or detox facility or service.

He added that DHSS provides two counseling programs and the majority of the clients are referrals from the court for drug or alcohol counseling — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) — for six weeks, but for the more serious cases, the program is 12 weeks.

DHSS also provides other services through drug and alcohol prevention activities, in which staff members make presentations at schools and churches, and for other organizations, that invite them.

DHSS provides funding for the eight local drug coalitions, that work together with villages, families, and churches.

With counseling programs available through DHSS, Muavafa’atasi suggested inclusion in the bill, counseling, besides rehabilitation, adding that the government is working to set up a rehabilitation service and detox center.

Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Galeai said there are many questions on rehabilitation services, due to the drug problem in the territory, but at this point, the only type of rehab is jail, instead of helping those with serious drug problems.

Human Resources director, Eseneiaso Liu, one of the ASG witnesses at the hearing, said the government is working on plans that include rehabilitation, and she can provide more details when the Senate calls them back for another hearing.

The committee will set another hearing date, to further discuss the bill.

One senator suggested that only those who work in law enforcement should be subjected to drug testing, such as Customs, the police and immigration officers.


A provision of the bill calls for random testing “without reasonable suspicion” of any employee who works in a “Safety-Sensitive Position”.

Each year, at least 25% of “Safety-Sensitive Positions” will be tested for alcohol misuse, while 50% of the said employees will be tested for drug use.

According to the bill, selection of employees for these tests will be conducted through a scientific valid random-position number selection method that is reasonable and acceptable.  These unannounced tests will be conducted throughout the year.

Safety-sensitive positions, subject to random drug testing include any positions identified by DHR, which entail safety-sensitive duties where failure of an employee to adequately discharge his or her position could significantly harm himself or herself, co-workers, public health, public safety or the environment.

The bill identifies, safety-sensitive positions, which includes but is not limited to:

•     police officers, other law enforcement officers, Homeland Security Special Agents, Immigration Officers, Customs Officers;

•     firemen, emergency medical technicians;

•     public health officers, quarantine officers; or

•     any ASG employee with an employee driver’s license, who operates a motor vehicle including water-borne vessels, for ASG as part of their job responsibilities.

The DHR director can also determine any other position to be considered as a safety-sensitive position.