Thursday, March 08, 2001

Money needed to pay for urine tests

Probation official scolded by commissioner

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Hamilton County Probation Department will enter into a new contract with Tristate Phlebotomy in April that will pay the company more than $23,000 per month to process urine samples for the department.

        But first, probation officials have to pay the bills for tests handled from the time their contract with Tristate was canceled on Jan. 25 until the new contract takes effect.

        That led Assistant Chief Probation Officer Tim Shannon to ask Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday for $50,000 in emergency funds to pay for the tests.

        Mr. Shannon also had to request permission to allow Tristate to handle the urine tests until April without going through a competitive bidding process.

        Without the emergency cash, there would have been no testing of offenders for more than a month.

        Since 1999, the number of people going through court-ordered urinalysis has jumped from 9,100 to more than 39,000. That led Tristate to tell the county it needed a new contract if the number of tests was going to remain that high.

        “The court has moved more and more people into urinalysis,” Mr. Shannon explained. “Before, it was just prime drug abusers.

        “Now, it's check passers, burglars, people who receive stolen property: If the offense seems to be driven by drugs, they'll go into the program.”

        The request angered Commissioner Todd Portune, who questioned why the department came to the commission with a five-week-old problem.

        “I don't like this as a way of doing business,” Mr. Portune said. “This is presented as an emergency, five weeks into an uncovered period.

        “But if we don't do this, there won't be testing for a month. That doesn't serve the community.”

        Mr. Shannon said he started working on the issue with the county prosecutor's office in September.

        “I just couldn't sequence this as fast as I would have liked,” Mr. Shannon said.


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