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empty blood sample vials
Impact

National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP)

Protecting the integrity of drug test results for federally regulated workplace programs through proficiency testing, inspection, and accreditation of forensic drug testing laboratories

Objective:

Protect the integrity of drug test results for federally regulated workplace programs.

Approach:

The program inspects drug testing laboratories, challenges the labs with proficiency testing samples, identifies problem areas, and monitors corrective actions. 

Impact:

Each federal agency is required by law to implement a drug-free workplace program, including drug testing of applicants and employees in accordance with the technical and scientific standards established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). All testing must be performed by laboratories accredited under the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP), These laboratories are known as the “gold standard” in the drug testing industry, with many states requiring drug testing to be performed by HHS-certified laboratories and many private-sector employers choosing these laboratories to test job applicants and employees.

Drug use in the workplace has serious effects on employee productivity, safety, and security, and can put the public at risk. As a result, employee drug testing programs have become a widely accepted pre-emptive tool to identify those who may be compromised by drug use.

Inaccurate or forensically unacceptable test results can lead to serious adverse consequences, including financial hardship for a wrongly implicated employee, legal liabilities, and questions about the integrity of workplace drug testing programs. Protecting both the employer and the employee is the ultimate goal of any drug testing program, which raises a challenge for forensic science laboratories and government oversight. All drug testing laboratories must themselves be tested to prove that their results are accurate, scientifically valid, and forensically sound.

Accrediting Drug Testing Laboratories through Proprietary Tools Aimed at Performance Measurement

Since 1986, RTI has supported the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by managing the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP). RTI conducts all aspects of the program, including the review and assessment of laboratory applications; inspections of applicant and certified laboratories; design, preparation, and distribution, scoring performance testing samples; identifies problem areas, and monitors corrective actions. These activities are designed to identify issues before they impact drug test results. We operate all aspects of the NLCP, including the inspection program for forensic drug testing laboratories and the manufacture, distribution, scoring, and reporting of proficiency testing (PT) samples.

Our team verifies laboratory procedures, data, and documentation, drawing on our extensive experience in forensic toxicology, which includes management and bench-level experience in Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)–certified drug testing laboratories. We also assembled and manage more than 100 expert consultants from academia, the military, and forensic toxicology laboratories to serve as NLCP inspectors.  

From the beginning of the program to 2020, the NLCP has accredited 147 Laboratories across the US, two in Canada, and one Initial Instrumented Testing Facility (IITF) in Canada. We have performed over 3800 inspections and shipped more than: 

  • 12,000 Initial Urine PT Samples
  • 142,500 Maintenance Urine PT Samples
  • 13,100 Oral Fluid Pilot PT Samples
  • 3,000 Hair Pilot PT Samples
  • 900 Sweat Pilot PT Samples

Protecting Employers, Individuals, and the Public by Establishing the Gold Standard in Laboratory Certification

The HHS-certified laboratories accredited under the NLCP are known as the “gold standard” in the drug testing industry. In fact, many states require drug testing to be performed by HHS-certified laboratories and many private-sector employers also choose these laboratories to test job applicants and employees.

We have been the government’s sole contractor for the NLCP project since its inception because of our ability to meet SAMHSA’s goals of ensuring accurate testing and maintaining the reliability of the entire drug testing process, thus helping reduce the impact of substance abuse on America’s communities.

Turning Knowledge into Practice

We provide annual training on topics including new technologies, case studies and study results from special projects open to all HHS-certified laboratory staff and NLCP inspectors. Additionally, we have developed a web-based series of courses on analytical methods in workplace drug testing. The NLCP publishes a newsletter Drug Testing Matters on topics written by subject matter experts that are of interest to the drug testing community. As of 2020, the NLCP has published 20 of these newsletters.  For a free email subscription, please send an email with your name and the subject Subscribe-DTM to NLCP@rti.org

More information can be found online at https://forensicrti.org/nlcp/, by email NLCP@rti.org or by phone 919-541-7242.