Babylon expands its drug testing policy for town employees

Babylon Old Town Hall,a national historic landmark, is Babylon Old Town Hall,a national historic landmark, is shown on Aug. 17, 2011. Photo Credit: T.C. McCarthy

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Babylon Town is expanding its drug-testing policy for town employees, requiring that workers be tested if they are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The town adopted the new section of its drug-testing policy at a board meeting Monday. The town policy previously addressed only employees with "safety-sensitive" jobs and those with a commercial driver's license as being subject to random drug-testing. That part of the policy still stands, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner.

Under the new section of the town's drug and alcohol testing policy titled "reasonable suspicion," it is required that specific observations be made before having an employee tested. Those observations -- "appearance, behavior, speech or body odors of the employee" -- must be made by a "properly trained supervisor" such as a commissioner, the policy states. Refusal to submit to testing is treated as a positive test, and the employee will be removed from his or her duties and may be suspended.

Of the western Suffolk towns, only Islip has a similar policy that includes testing based on suspicion of using drugs or alcohol. Islip's policy requires confirmation by two managers. Most Long Island towns do not test employees who are not drivers or in safety-sensitive positions outside of initial hiring requirements. Babylon Town does not require drug and alcohol testing as part of its hiring process, Bonner said, but is contemplating adding it.

Bonner said no incident precipitated the policy change, but that it was made with recent tweaks to other workplace policies, such as improved safety procedures.

Speaking out in favor of the policy change was Babylon resident Teri Kroll, 55, who lost her son Timothy, 23, to a heroin overdose in 2009.

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"Drug testing is one of the best things we can do for our own family members," she told the town board, adding later that testing "keeps companies aware and also keeps family members aware."

At the same meeting, the town approved a resolution encouraging state legislators to pass a bill, first introduced last year, that would require health insurance companies to pay for drug and alcohol treatment.

Town Councilman Tom Donnelly said the resolution is part of a multipronged approach to drug and alcohol abuse being pursued by Babylon, in conjunction with police and other agencies.

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"It's our way of doing our part to make sure this bill gets through," he said.

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