The LifeVac is used to help choking victims and is one of the products available at TSS (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

Tongass Substance Screening has been in operation for 20 years. Renee Schofield, owner and CEO, spoke recently at a Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the services the business offers and recent additions.

Schofield says the business has three locations in Alaska – Ketchikan, Craig and Juneau.  Schofield says initially, TSS offered only breath and urine testing, but now offers more options including blood and hair testing. She says the most recent addition is fingernail sampling.

“The beauty of fingernail drug testing is that it takes the collector out of it. I don’t have to deal with urine, I don’t have to cut your hair, I don’t have to touch you to take the sweat patches on and off. The donor actually clips their own fingernails. We just monitor that.”

Schofield says TSS also offers surface testing which immediately indicates whether there was drug use in a room or vehicle by simply swiping the surface. She says this is helpful for home buyers and renters wanting to know if a residence is contaminated.

Schofield says it also can be helpful for businesses, and gave an example where an employer suspected drug use in a company vehicle.

“What we did was swipe test the van, which was positive, and then he used that to go forward and do reasonable suspicion testing on the crew that was assigned to that vehicle.”

She says a company’s policy would need to specify that drug use is not permitted in order to allow the testing. Schofield says since legalization of marijuana, the number of positive tests for that drug has increased.

“People didn’t know that, ‘Gosh my employer drug tests and my employer’s policy says ‘no marijuana,’ even though it’s legal.’ Even though we’ve been a couple years in, we are still seeing that. And that’s really hard when you’ve got a person with a federal license, a DOT license, whether they fly a plane or drive a truck or run a boat. And they say, ‘But it’s legal in Alaska.’ …Not for you.”

Schofield says she sees more cases of pre-teens testing positive for marijuana. She says she suspects kids are getting the drugs in homes where it is used legally.

In addition to drug screening, TSS offers home and workplace safety training, and recently added an online store. Schofield says one of the products is a date-rape drug detector.

“And it tests for the date-rape drugs GHP and Ketomine.  And literally what you do is put a drop of your drink on the test circle, and it’ll tell you if those drugs are present.”

A date-rape test kit available from Tongass Substance Screening (photo courtesy of TSS).

The test kits cost about $5, are flat and about the size of a drink coaster. Schofield says she’s heard people say they don’t believe date-rape drugs are used in Ketchikan, but she says that is not true. Schofield says the best advice is not to leave your drink unattended, but if you do, the test can quickly indicate if a drug is present.

Another product is the LifeVac, which is used to help choking victims.

“This is not a plunger, but it looks like one. What happens with this is simply, if you have a choking victim that you haven’t been able to get (the object) moved out by using the abdominal thrust, this device will fit on their face. You push down and pull up and it’ll pull that item out.”

Schofield says the kit includes sizes for adults, children, and infants.

TSS also has NARCAN kits, which stop an opioid overdose. They are available for free due to the work of an Alaska state government task force. Schofield says there is controversy about its use.

“Some people don’t want it. They say, ‘If a guy is going to overdose, that’s his problem and I don’t want to deploy this.’  What I’ll say to you as the mother of an addict in recovery. If you had one chance to save my daughter’s life, I would hope you would use it.”

She says free kits also are available at the Public Health Center and through some clinics and healthcare providers.  Schofield says they’re simple to use and training takes about eight minutes. Schofield encourages all businesses and individuals to have them.