The Postal Service has not developed a comprehensive prescription drug policy and drug abuse educational program for its employees, an IG report has said, adding that the agency has not been making full use of available data regarding opioid use.
In reviewing Federal Employees Compensation Act data, the IG found that in 2018 some 18,000 Postal Service employees received over 119,000 opioid prescriptions through that program. While that was down from 2016, the USPS rate of decline was only 70 percent of that for other agencies under FECA and was only 42 percent of the nationwide rate of decline. In addition, over 2014-2017 the average number of prescriptions per Postal Service employee under FECA increased from about 6.2 to about 6.8 while the number nationwide decreased from about 3.7 to about 3.4. “An increasing number of prescriptions per employee could indicate an increased risk of opioid misuse,” the report said.
It said that USPS headquarters does not use that data to monitor trends in opioid prescriptions among its workforce but only to review employee medical and compensation cost totals for reimbursement to the Labor Department. Without using that data, the Postal Service “cannot identify how many employees are filling opioid prescriptions through the FECA program, whether the rate of prescriptions is increasing or decreasing, and the number of prescriptions per employee. This data can also be used to identify specific locations, offices, or areas of the country where there may be issues,” it said.
While the postal employee handbook requires employees to inform their supervisors if they are taking prescription drugs that could impair their mental or physical abilities, it does not include supervisory guidance on effectively managing employees taking prescription drugs, including opioids, a report said. “This is necessary to ensure staff do not perform activities, such as driving or working around heavy equipment, putting themselves and others at risk,” it said.
It said that earlier this year, the Postal Service conducted stand-up talks at facilities that focused on the risks of abusing opioid prescriptions and that promoted the availability of the employee assistance program. “However, the information provided did not include the Postal Service’s current policies regarding prescription drug use in the workplace and questions employees should ask their doctors when prescribed opioids,” it said. Further, attendance data was recorded for the talks and they were not given at all offices.
In response, management said it would review processes and the availability of FECA program data.