State Turns Up The Heat In War On Drugs In The Workplace

1,300 Md. Workers In Carroll Could Be Tested

January 23, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

More than half of the 2,047 state employees who work in Carroll could face random drug tests beginning this month, as the governor's new drug policy is put in place.

Regarded as one of the nation's toughest drug-testing policies, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's program calls for random urinalysis for all 13,000 state workers employed in safety-related fields.

The tests -- which will cost the state $400,000 a year to administer -- will detect traces of such illegal drugs as marijuana, heroin,cocaine and LSD. The state is phasing in the testing program betweennow and the end of next month.

The program is the second one proposed by Schaefer, who this summer was ready to institute random testsfor all 89,800 state employees. Under that plan, any employee who failed a drug test would have been fired on the spot.

Eventually, after worker unions and civil rights activists complained bitterly about random testing of all state employees and the planned firing of anyone who failed one test, that proposal was scrapped.

Under the revised plan, state police officers, prison guards, health care providers, bus drivers and machinery operators face at least a 1-in-3 chance of being tested every year.

Should a worker test positive for drugs, he or she will be suspended for 15 days without pay and be orderedto undergo drug treatment. The state will fire anyone who tests positive a second time.

At least 1,300 state workers in Carroll are employed in safety-related fields, state records show. The bulk of those workers are employed at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville and by the State Police.

While those workers now face the probability of random drug tests, most other public employees in the county are not covered by any formal drug policy.

Of the eight Carroll municipalities, only Westminster uses any form of drug testing. And no drug tests are administered to the 825 people employed by the county.

"There is no drug testing in the county (government), although we do have a drug-free workplace in effect," said Beverly Billingslea, the assistant director of human resources.

The drug-free workplace -- modeled after federal government guidelines -- was put into effect in November 1989. Under that policy, county workers who use, sell, make or transport illegal drugs on county time could be fired.

The Sheriff's Department does not test its employees for drugs, but it does test inmates at the County Detention Center. Carroll and Harford are the only two counties in the metropolitan area whose police forces have no drug-testing programs in place.

Westminster also adopted a drug-free workplace program in 1989. However, some of the city's 110 employees face drug testing.

All job applicants must pass a drug test before being hired. And employees who are caught using drugs could be subject to testing.

"We try to provide opportunities toget help to people," said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning andhead of personnel for the city. "Obviously, if an employee of mine is smoking crack on the job, I have the option to fire him. But we tryto get the person the time to get help first."

Westminster policeofficers are the only city employees who face random, unannounced drug tests, Beyard said.

So far, he said, the program has worked. "Imust say that it has worked well in Westminster," Beyard said. "It'sa very workable program without the the onus of Big Brother stickingover you."

In the county's other municipalities -- each with a considerably smaller work force -- no drug-testing programs are in place.

"We don't have a drug policy at all," said John A. Riley, Hampstead town manager. "With nine employees, I guess any tests would not be random at all."

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. said he has "real reservations" about such testing, which he called a "real invasion of privacy."

"I am unwilling to give up my freedom and that ofour town workers," Helt said. "People too quickly are giving up their freedoms."

The mayor said he doesn't see the South Carroll town testing in the future, either.

"The police chief doesn't see the need," Helt said. "This whole thing has me disturbed.

"Is it going to catch anyone? A person using drugs is going to avoid the tests anyway."

The story is much the same in Manchester, where its 11 employees are not covered by a drug policy; the same goes for the 57 municipal employees in Taneytown, Mount Airy, Union Bridge and New Windsor.

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