CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia has begun drug testing people who seek job training through federally funded programs, following through on an executive order from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin prompted by recurring complaints from state employers.
Russell Fry, acting head of WorkForce West Virginia, told lawmakers on Monday that the screenings debuted July 16.
Applicants must submit to testing when they seek training funded under the federal Workforce Investment Act or through national emergency grants. Fry noted to legislators that not all training programs will require drug tests, including those for veterans or workers displaced because of foreign competition. The screening mandate also does not apply to unemployment benefits, he said.
“Not everyone who comes through the door is tested,” Fry told the House-Senate Legislative Oversight Commission on Workforce Investment for Economic Development.
The screening tests applicants for 10 categories of drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine and synthetic drugs. Those that test positive are barred from training for 90 days if they test positive, pending a follow-up screening. If they flunk that test, they must wait one year before trying again.
Fry said test results are confidential and are mailed directly to applicants, who can appeal the results, Fry said. Health Research Systems, a firm based in West Virginia and Ohio, won the one-year contract to administer the tests, Fry said. He added that the company already provides screening services to state and local government agencies, including the Department of Transportation.
Health Research Systems estimated that it would conduct 900 screenings under the contract, at a cost of around $42,000. Workforce West Virginia estimates that 2,200 people took part in training programs subject to the new screening mandate during the just-completed budget year.
The U.S. Department of Labor says Indiana became the first state to require drug testing of people seeking job training, under a rule it adopted last year. West Virginia appears the only state to follow that route. At least 30 states, including West Virginia, have considered requiring drug tests for people who seek public assistance, unemployment benefits or public employment.