Bexar County defendants were given a choice to stop in-person drug screenings during COVID-19 pandemic, most declined
Defenders found large group gathering to submit to drug and alcohol screenings at facility west of downtown
SAN ANTONIO – On Tuesday, the Bexar County Justice Center had just a handful of people in its hallways.
Courtroom dockets have been limited to five people or fewer per day and jury trials have been canceled through at least the middle of next April.
But at a drug testing facility west of downtown that contracts with Bexar County, it appeared to be business as usual.
The Recovery Monitoring Services facility is located in the 100 block of South Sabinas Street.
Before noon, a large line gathered outside the facility. A KSAT 12 photographer captured images of people lined up close to one another inside the facility as well.
All while health officials continue to recommend gatherings of no more than 10 people.
Judge Tommy Stolhandske, who presides over County Court 11 as well as the Adult Drug and DWI specialty courts, provided the Defenders a March 19 memo in which he gave defendants the option to stop in person urinalysis if they agreed to be tested via a drug-patch, a Band-aid like patch that sticks to a person’s skin for up to 14 days.
Stolhandske said the patch is then sent off to a lab for testing.
“Every participant was individually contacted by the case managers to offer the patch testing alternative. Very few of the participants chose to take this option with most electing to remain with in person testing,” Stolhandske said via email.
He also added that the patch detects the presence of drugs but not alcohol.
READ THE FULL MEMO BELOW
In a memo written two days earlier, Stolhandske indicated that in person 12-step meetings had been suspended and docket appearances would be limited for the foreseeable future.
Jarvis Anderson, director of the Bexar County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, released the following statement:
Bexar County CSCD continues to serve the Community by offering critical services and interventions. The vendor has protocols in place recommended by the CDC for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We urge the public to practice social distancing for any required interaction in the community.
Anderson did not say whether defendants on probation were also given the option of switching to drug-patch screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One high-ranking county source told the Defenders Tuesday that court officials have discussed suspending in person urinalysis for defendants while the pandemic surges on but have not made any final decisions.
A spokeswoman for Recovery Monitoring Solutions released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
Recovery Monitoring Solutions is actively working to protect our employees, our clients, and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an essential business in Bexar County, we are taking every measure to limit the number of clients in the location at any given time and to encourage social distancing. For example, RMS is limiting the number of clients in the waiting area by asking others to wait outside, and markers and signage have been placed near the entry (and inside leading to the waiting room) to indicate proper social distancing.
Recovery Monitoring Solutions is working very closely with Bexar County officials in managing the process and volume of clients being ordered to test by the Bexar County courts. RMS will continue to seek their counsel and work in cooperation with Bexar County on best practices during this time.
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