Lafayette Sheriff’s Office to do own drug testing

In a few weeks, all drug tests taken by parolees and others under the supervision of the Lafayette Parish correctional system will be done by Sheriff’s Office employees.

It’s a shift away from third-party drug testing, which is being done by a company in California, said Rob Reardon, director of corrections for the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, a system that includes the Community Corrections Center on Poydras Street where the drug lab is located.

“For us, it’s going to be an expense decreaser, but potentially a revenue increaser,” Reardon said, explaining that other law enforcement agencies around Acadiana could ask the Lafayette lab to administer drug tests for them — and pay for the service.

Each week, Lafayette Parish collects urine, and sometimes saliva and blood, from about 150 parolees and others who must get tested by orders of a judge.

Each sample is run through a fast test — a “dip test” in lab parlance, Reardon said.

If a urine sample’s initial test rings alarms, it signals the need for more thorough testing. For Lafayette Parish, that has meant sending the sample to a California company that charges a premium for its services, Reardon said.

Reardon and Julio Naudin, an aide to Sheriff Mike Neustrom, said the department will save $60,000 to $75,000 a year by doing the tests in-house.

They said there have been no studies done on how much revenue the Sheriff’s Office could make by testing for other agencies, and there have been no agreements signed with other agencies so far.

Reardon said Lafayette Parish is following the Jefferson Parish drug-testing model, which does in-house testing and charges other governmental agencies that need the service.

Naudin and Reardon said the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office also has an agreement with that parish’s school district to test students who need to be drug free to participate in sports, or whose parents want the school system to test their children.

Next week, three additional Sheriff’s Office employees will receive training on the correct way to collect samples for drug-testing, load the machine and process the paperwork.

No chemist is needed, said Barry Bascle, the Lafayette lab’s first technician.

Bascle said the machine, provided by medical technology company Thermo Fisher Scientific, does all the analyzing.

Thermo Fisher Scientific provided the machine free of charge with the agreement that all the chemicals needed to perform the estimated 7,500 tests each year would be purchased from the medical technology company, Reardon said.

And the labor to fix up the room at the Community Corrections Center on Poydras Street was low-cost also, Naudin said: Workers wearing the black and white parish prison uniforms transformed the section of the building that houses the new equipment.

The in-house system will be connected to the Internet where the test results will be available for case managers of those who are out of jail but supervised by the Sheriff’s Office, Reardon said.