Pubdate: Wed, 01 Mar 2000
Source: Lansing State Journal (MI)
Copyright: 2000 Lansing State Journal
Author: Paul Egan


13,000 More To Be Added As Subject To Random Checking

As the state expands its random testing program today, a union leader is
calling on members with drug problems to get help.

"If you're using drugs, stop," said John Denniston of the Michigan State
Employees Association. "If you can't stop, then call me, and I'll help you
get help."

Effective today, 13,000 more state employees are subject to random testing
for marijuana and cocaine, bringing the total to 18,000, said Janine
Winters, director of the Office of the State Employer.

Among those added to the testing pool are about 10,000 prison workers and
1,000 boiler and power plant operators, electricians and maintenance workers.

Stepping forward is the best bet for drug users to keep their jobs,
Denniston said. Under the state's "zero tolerance" policy, anyone who tests
positive will be fired. But those who report a problem will receive
counseling and treatment.

In all, about 90 percent of the state's 60,000 employees are subject to
some form of drug or alcohol testing, Winters said. Most can't be tested
randomly, only if they appear to be under the influence.

The state also gives drug tests to new hires. It plans to extend testing
for cause to all employees and random testing to those with sensitive jobs.

Talks continue with three employee groups, including the 1,800-member
Michigan State Police Troopers Association.

The program costs about $500,000 a year.

"It's money well-spent because the kinds of jobs these people are
performing require a great deal of attention and any kind of impairment
could result in very serious consequences," Winters said.

About half of the 50 states have drug testing for all employees.

Kurt Bancroft, a research worker with the Department of Transportation,
said that once all state employees are subject to testing, one group will
still be missing - the Legislature and its staff.

"I have no problem with anybody taking the drug test as long as everybody
takes it," he said.
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