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‘It’s very dangerous’: Probationers say they weren’t offered alternative to in-person drug screenings during COVID-19 pandemic

People ordered to submit drug tests being funneled to single location west of downtown

SAN ANTONIO – Days after the KSAT 12 Defenders showed long lines of people waiting to submit court-ordered drug tests, multiple Bexar County probationers say they were never given the option to switch away from in-person drug screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very dangerous for that many people to be together in one area,” said one probationer, referring to Recovery Monitoring Services in the 100 block of South Sabinas Street.

The man, who asked that we not identify him, said he called his probation officer several times this month and asked if there were any alternatives to providing an in-person urine sample and was told “no” each time.

“I said, ‘The ordinance just happened. Do you still need me to go out to that area?’ And he said, yes, I do," recalled the probationer, who is required to take part in monthly urine analysis as part of a deferred adjudication plea agreement.

The Defenders checked Bexar County Community Supervision and Corrections (Adult Probation) Department buildings across the city. Each of them had signs posted telling people they had to provide urine analysis, or UAs, at the same Sabinas Street location.

Bexar County defendants were given a choice to stop in-person drug screenings during COVID-19 pandemic, most declined

A court official this week provided the Defenders a March 19 memo giving participants in the county’s specialty courts the option to switch from in-person drug screenings to wearing a drug-patch, a Band-Aid-like patch that sticks to a person’s skin for up to 14 days.

The patch costs less than $29, the official said.

County officials have so far not answered questions about whether defendants on probation were given a similar memo.

Jarvis Anderson, director of the Bexar County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, said the following via email Thursday:

“Use of the drug patch to monitor substance use has been an option for probationers since 2013. Most have opted not to utilize this option due to the cost associated with the drug patch compared to a single urinalysis collection. Drug patches must be changed every two weeks, whereas single urinalysis requirement can be spread out over a span of 30 days. Recovery Healthcare has had the recommended CDC protocols for prevention of spread of COVID-19. Bexar County CSCD is committed to serving the Community by offering essential services and interventions for the duration of this crisis.”

A spokeswoman for RMS said via email earlier this week that the company was working with county officials and continuing to seek their counsel on best practices to institute.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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