Wednesday, December 7, 2011

No EAP Assessment and Help for Randy Babbit FAA Chief for Drunk Driving? Missed Opportunity Big Time.

I don't know about you, but I am having mixed feelings about the resignation of Randy Babbit, the FAA chief who was arrested for drunk driving and resigned on Dec. 5. He offered his resignation and it was accepted. Yes, the significance of Babbit's position is important, but should he not get an assessment to see if he has an alcoholism problem? Then, should he not be offered treatment if he is diagnosable? Isn't this the way it is supposed work?

I don't think the Secretary of Transportation should have accepted the resignation (or requested it?). This entire incident is a RIPE opportunity for creating another powerful dialogue about occupational alcoholism and how we are supposed to salvage employees who have substance abuse problems--not for their sake, but for society at large!

Of course, this does not excuse Babbit's behavior. However, it does put the the FAA in the position of easily leveraging him into an assessment and then if needed, treatment for alcoholism after an assessment, if in fact he meets the criteria for the diagnosis of alcoholism.

Now, before you freak out on me for this post, do you realize that the FAA has followed over 1500 recovering alcoholic airline pilots and that the program has an outstanding success rate. The recovering pilot's program is run by the FAA Medical Examiner in Washington, D.C.? I have worked personally with some of these pilots have met the founder of this program when I was at Arlington Hospital Addiction Treatment Program between 1984 and 1995. You probably don't know about this program because it is not publicized. It was started in the 1970's after the GREAT PUSH to help alcoholics in the workplace. Remember that?

The bottom line is that there will always be alcoholic pilots, but identifying them early and leveraging them into treatment is the way to go. And the FAA does. It is the only common sense approach. If you do not do this, alcoholics will hide. And this incident with Babbit will make those employees with alcohol problems go further underground (and then emerge again even worse.)

Also, do realize that Babbit would have been offered an assessment and/or treatment--required by OPM as a firm choice arrangement or be fired in the 1970's and early 80's. For some reason then alcohol-related problems were considered sign of potential alcoholism whose symptoms were behaviors show up as things like drunk driving.

The ADA obliterated these protections and drove practicing alcoholics further underground after its passage. Don't believe me? Okay here is the proof:

Don't you think that after 40 years of enlightened medical and treatment professionals pounding the table to convince society that treating addicts is in everyone's interest that the FAA of all organizations, would stand up and get this guy in treatment, if needed?

I think EAPA should make a public statement about this. This superior executive with an incredible work history is now toast. If alcoholism exists, and it remains untreated, further alcohol problems will continue, and the untold costs will also continue. What will they be?

This was a missed opportunity for the advancement of society's education about alcoholism. I honestly think we had our act together in the mid-1970's, but in 2011, we are back in the dark ages with addictive disease.