Detection or treatment: Opioids mean business for ex-Eagles lineman's company

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Former Eagles player Mike Chalenski, founder and chief executive officer, leads CSS Inc., a New Jersey employee background screening company that offers drug testing.

MIKE "Chilly" CHALENSKI

  • Home: Medford, with wife, Heather; children, Brianna, 16, Mike Jr. 13.
  • Height: 6`8"
  • Diplomas: UCLA, history, captain of the football team; USA Today's High School all-American player, 1987 -- David Brearley High School, Kenilworth, N.J. (Union County)
  • How 'bout them Eagles?: "They're better than they were last year and improving. I think they did a great job with quarterback Carson Wentz.
  • CSS INC:
  • Where: Gibbsboro
  • What: Criminal, employment background checks, drug screening and monitoring, with specific programs for construction, sports coaches, volunteers, manufacturing, gaming, government.
  • Clients: About 5,000
  • Employees: 45.

What’s tough about starting a new business? Obviously, getting financing. But it's often tough to score an appointment with a potential customer, supplier or investor.

Not for Michael "Chilly" Chalenski, 47, founder of CSS Inc., an employee background screening and drug testing company based in Gibbsboro. Besides fact-checking resumes, scrutinizing social media, and looking at criminal records, CSS helps employers screen for opioids, among other drugs.

“That’s the one thing that’s good about going from sports to business,” Chalenski said. A former defensive lineman, Chalenski played for the Eagles from 1993 to 1995, before hopscotching around the league, to the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions before leaving the game in 1998.  

In football, “you get to meet a lot of these people,” Chalenski said. Sports fans always want to talk to a player – past or present, “and now it’s flipped. Now you want to meet them and learn more about their story. So I met with these people and pretended like I knew business, but I really didn’t know much.”

These days, Chalenski’s business, whose acronym stands for Comprehensive Screening Solutions, employs about 45, including former Eagles defensive end  Michael Mamula, CSS's director of business development.  Selected by the Eagles in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft, Mamula suffered injuries that pushed him into retirement in 2000.

What's happening with opioids in the workplace?

Opioids have become pretty much of an epidemic.  Gov. Christie just started a task force in New Jersey.  It has extended over to Gov. Wolf in Pennsylvania.  If you look at what that does in the workplace, the opioids and the heroin, [workers] start with the pills that they get and progress to heroin.  You’re looking at absenteeism, decreased productivity, theft, all those things that could probably happen within the workplace because of the drugs. Companies are looking into more extensive panels to test for opioids. Whereas, before it was kind of like, "Let’s do the minimum amount possible."   Now, they’re really looking into the actual drugs being tested and adding [tests] for some of these drugs that they didn't normally test, like the oxycodones.

It seems as if everyone is talking about opioids.

The opioid epidemic was kind of like the crack cocaine epidemic when we were growing up.  Everybody was on crack.  Now it’s opioids.  So, there’s always a struggle, because as they crack down on one, something else comes up. 

How many people test positive for drugs?

Nationally -- I’m just going on averages – it’s about 12 percent. If it’s positive, we strongly recommend employers go through the medical review officer,  because that way they can tell if it’s illegal or a prescribed medication. When you look at opioids, there’s also a recovery component. It’s a disease. It really is and people have to start seeing that. We’re providing employers information. There’s a human approach to get these people help.

As in go to a rehab center or get some other kind of treatment?

Yes. There are a lot of treatment facilities that we do business with. It’s growing. Because when they’re in the programs, one of the most effective ways to detect drug use among addicts is drug testing. Point blank. When you talk to somebody, you want to believe they are on the road back, but the only way to validate that is to be tested. The big thing now is outcome reporting. How effective is the treatment program? We’ll provide the testing. We’ll collect that data. Treatment facilities are really getting a lot smarter on how to effectively treat drug use and opioids specifically.

Back to football: Athletes are known to be superstitious with all sorts of pre-game rituals. Any of that carry over to your new business life?

You had  to eat the same thing before you go out, listen to the same song, make sure you put on your left sock before your right sock. I’ve dumbed it down, but I’m still big on socks. A certain pair. You put your right foot on before your left.  

What color are your magic socks?

Blue. It used to be the pink ones. They got eaten by my dog. 

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.