Alcoholism and other chemical dependencies are now recognized as part of a disease process. This disease affects Teamsters to the same, and often to a greater degree, as the general population. The Teamsters' FIRST program is established to provide a system and network whereby afflicted individuals are treated and successfully returned to the work.

The program is a cooperative one that includes the involvement of company representatives, Teamsters' FIRST responders, Teamster Union Representatives, healthcare professionals, and medical specialists. While the program borrows heavily from treatment principles developed in both clinical and industrial settings, it has specific elements that reflect the unique nature of the safety-sensitive Teamsters transportation system. Successful FIRST-model programs exist in the U.S., Canada, and other countries around the world in similar proven models.

FIRST is modeled upon the basic tenets of the Human Intervention Motivational Study (HIMS) program. HIMS started in the early 1970s as a joint effort of the Federal Aviation Administration, major airlines, and commercial pilot unions to identify, treat and safely return alcoholic pilots to flight duty.

HIMS has long been recognized as the gold standard in occupational substance use disorder (SUD) recovery programs. It has been astoundingly successful in achieving verified, long-term abstinence rates in pilots by utilizing structured protocols at the organizational and individual levels, emphasizing aftercare and abstinence monitoring.

HIMS’ pilot participants achieve a biologically verified 90% long-term abstinence rate following initial enrollment in the program. The majority of the remaining cohort achieves sustained abstinence after just a few instances of relapse. In contrast, alcoholics, and addicts who participate in a standard treatment model resume active use at a rate of 85% within the first year after initial treatment. Those with SUD who reach long-term abstinence through the standard approach go to treatment an average of four to five times before achieving long-term SUD remission. Only 30% of people who have undergone treatment are abstinent after five years. Only 14% of those who have ever had an alcohol or drug problem were abstinent over the last year. Sadly, many don’t make it back to treatment and continue to suffer and wreak havoc in their familial, professional, and social relationships, ultimately dying prematurely of addiction. (https://www.vivonhealth.com/modeled-after-a-proven-program)

Modern day Employee Assistance services had their origins in Occupational Alcoholism Programs where the core technology focused on management and union confronting resistant employees whose problem behavior was putting the company at risk. The emphasis of the Teamsters FIRST assistance system described in this document is to capitalize on these skills, adapt them to each corporate environment and fastidiously protect them from erosion within the mainstream of America’s Employee Assistance Programs. Such internal Teamster specific initiatives will significantly impact safety and return on investment.

Based upon SUD (Substance Use Disorder) experiences, the FIRST program is best suited to reflect the needs, safety, economics and medical certification. Peer involvement is critical, but generally is not able to be a standalone service. External EAP programs are not familiar with the unique medical reporting and certification requirements for Teamsters, nor the regulatory issues that impact their occupation. Teamster-specific resources are essential to earn the trust and participation of Union Members in these programs.

An internal program administered by the Teamster’s professional staff FIRST
(First Initial Response and Support Team)

An internal/external combination
Utilization of FIRST and Outside treatment programs

A Union/Peer Referral Program