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

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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.

However, 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.

There is a pressing need for comprehensive laboratory quality assurance and guidelines in order to ensure the accuracy and dependability of employee drug testing programs. 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 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by leading the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP). NLCP inspects drug testing laboratories, challenges the labs with proficiency 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.  

In 2015 alone, we challenged the accredited laboratories with over 4,000 PT samples and conducted over 80 in-person inspections.

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.