Drug screens recommended for more county employees

KNOX — Random employee drug screens are becoming increasingly common, and many more of Starke County’s employees may soon be subject to random drug and alcohol screening in accordance with a recommendation from the county’s general liability insurance carrier. This matter was brought forth at the Commissioner’s meeting Nov. 1.
“Our general liability insurance carrier recommended that Commissioners consider random drug and alcohol screening for any employee that drives a county vehicle and/or is in a safety/security position,” said Commis-sioner Kathy Norem.
Most workplaces that randomly drug screen employees tend to use a five-panel drug screen; however, the drug screen involved would consist of a seven-panel oral swab test, which tests for THC, cocaine, benzoylecgonine, opiates, Oxycodone, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, using a self-administered testing device. The screen gathers the same information as a blood test, but is non-invasive and easier to administer. In addition, drinking and eating do not affect the results of the test, thereby reducing the chances of test tampering, and the test results are returned significantly faster, with a 24-hour test time.
Currently, only highway department employees are required to undergo random drug and alcohol screening as required by Department of Transportation standards. This may change, however, requiring additional county employees to undergo testing as well. According to Norem, this would include employees from the Sheriff’s department, in addition to employees from the jail, E-911, EMS, and Community Corrections. Following this recommendation to randomly screen these employees for drugs and alcohol use may lead to lower insurance rates for the county in the long run.
“Complying with the request of our liability insurance carrier could reduce our rates in the future. Conversely, failing to comply with their requests could impact our rates also,” Norem said.
An improvement to the security camera at the jail was also discussed at the meeting. The Commissioners were presented with bids from three vendors to replace the camera, with the totals ranging between roughly $74,000 and $100,000. The new security system would be an upgrade to the current system, with more cameras in strategic locations.
The upgraded security cameras would also have the ability to record sound, use night vision, and increased recording capabilities, all of which the current system does not have.
“This is necessary for inmate and staff safety as well as an improved tool for documenting incidents,” said Norem.