Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Employee drug testing to begin at state mental health/mental retardation facilities

Press Release Date:  Thursday, December 08, 2005  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker

Vikki Franklin

Policy Designed to Protect Vulnerable Residents 

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Beginning Jan. 1, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) will pilot a drug-testing program for state and contract employees at all state-run mental health and mental retardation (MH/MR) facilities. Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed an emergency regulation launching the program. 

The testing will include random, pre-employment and probable cause testing for illegal drugs. Approximately 3,600 employees work in the state’s 12 MH/MR facilities. 

“My administration is committed to providing a safe environment for residents and employees at our facilities,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher. “This is a critical step to ensure we do everything we can to fulfill that commitment. “  

 “The primary reason for instituting drug testing is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents we serve,” said Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell. “It is imperative that those who care for some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens are drug-free.” 

The Office of Inspector General in CHFS recommended that a drug testing policy be implemented. Kentucky’s policy is based on federal regulations for civil service employees. 

Applicants who refuse or fail a drug test will not be considered for hiring. Employees who refuse or fail a drug test will face punishment up to and including termination. 

In October, the Department of Corrections (DOC) implemented a policy of testing prospective new employees. Since then, 10 percent of those tested for illegal drugs came back positive. On Jan. 1, the DOC will expand its program to include random testing. 

 “We believe the results of the Department of Corrections’ pilot project warrant us expanding the program to include our employees who care for residents at state-run mental health/mental retardation facilities,” said Secretary Birdwhistell. 

Drug testing of employees is common at private health care facilities. Kentucky State Police also screen applicants for drugs, and the Transportation Cabinet screens according to federal Department of Transportation requirements.