Shelby County Community Corrections Expands Drug Testing

Shelby County Community Corrections Expands Drug Testing Capacity

Shelby County, located in the central portion of Alabama,  is one of Alabama’s fastest-growing counties. Its brilliant patchwork of history, culture, attractions, arts, and community makes it one of the nation’s most dynamic counties. As of the 2020 census, the population was 223,024 residents. But, as beautiful as Shelby County is, its beauty does not prevent substance use disorders that plague many counties in the United States.

Shelby County Community Corrections Corporation, located in Columbiana, Alabama, is a 501c3 government agency whose mission statement is “Providing Alternatives and Opportunity to the Citizens of Shelby County”. The corporation provides alternative sentencing and education programs for participants in their drug court program.

Drug courts are an innovative and effective solution to addressing substance use within the criminal court system.

As the name implies, drug courts are specifically for persons with substance use disorders. Drug court programs recognize that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that affects behavior and impulse control. Therefore, drug court’s primary goal is not punishment, it is treatment for the disease. To motivate treatment, the court grants incentives for progress and sanctions for failure to meet program requirements. These court programs offer individuals the opportunity to enter long-term drug treatment and agree to court supervision rather than receiving a jail sentence. The intensive program requires participants to maintain recovery, take on responsibilities, and work towards lifestyle changes. Under the supervision and authority of the court, their progress is continuously monitored during their participation in the program. Ultimately, drug courts reduce crime and affect real, positive change in people’s lives.

Shelby County’s Community Corrections program is managed by a seven-member board of directors and averages 75 participants in their drug court program at any given time. The Shelby County Drug Court team is proud of their average drug court graduation rate of 90% along with their low recidivism rate of 10%.

An effective operation of a drug court program is premised upon having the capacity to:

  • Conduct frequent and random urine drug tests of participants (often two to three times per week)
  • Obtain urine drug test results immediately
  • Maintain a high degree of accuracy in the urine drug test results.

Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing

Frequent court-ordered alcohol and other drug (AOD) testing is essential. An accurate testing program is the most objective and efficient way to establish a framework for accountability and to gauge each participant’s progress. Modern technology offers highly reliable testing to determine if an individual has recently used specific drugs. Further, it is commonly recognized that alcohol use frequently contributes to relapse among individuals whose primary drug of choice is not alcohol.

AOD testing results are objective measures of treatment effectiveness, as well as a source of important information for periodic review of treatment progress. AOD testing helps shape the ongoing interaction between the court and each participant. Timely and accurate test results promote frankness and honesty among all parties.

AOD testing is central to the drug court’s monitoring of participant compliance. It is both objective and cost-effective. It gives the participant immediate information about his or her own progress, making the participant active and involved in the treatment process rather than a passive recipient of services.

Performance Benchmarks

  1. AOD testing policies and procedures are based on established and tested guidelines, such as those established by the American Probation and Parole Association. Contracted laboratories analyzing urine or other samples should also be held to established standards.
  2. Testing may be administered randomly or at scheduled intervals, but occurs no less than twice a week during the first several months of an individual’s enrollment. Frequency thereafter will vary depending on participant progress.
  3. The scope of testing is sufficiently broad to detect the participant’s primary drug of choice as well as other potential drugs of abuse, including alcohol.
  4. The drug-testing procedure must be certain. Elements contributing to the reliability and validity of a urinalysis testing process include, but are not limited to:
    • Direct observation of urine sample collection.
    • Verification of urine temperature and measurement of creatinine levels to determine the extent of water loading.
    • Specific, detailed, written procedures regarding all aspects of urine sample collection, sample analysis, and result reporting.
    • A documented chain of custody for each sample collected.
    • Quality control and quality assurance procedures for ensuring the integrity of the process.
    • Procedures for verifying accuracy when drug test results are contested.
  5. Ideally, test results are available and communicated to the court and the participant within one day. The drug court functions best when it can respond immediately to noncompliance; the time between sample collection and availability of results should be short.
  6. The court is immediately notified when a participant has tested positive, has failed to submit to AOD testing, has submitted the sample of another, or has adulterated a sample.
  7. The coordinated strategy for responding to noncompliance includes prompt responses to positive tests, missed tests, and fraudulent tests.
  8. Participants should be abstinent for a substantial period of time prior to program graduation.

Prior to 2006, the program offered limited drug testing services to their participants and the program determined their need to expand their services. However, their testing provider was unable to meet their expanding need for urine drug testing services. As a result, Shelby County Community Corrections partnered with DTPM, a provider of drug testing instruments and test kits located in Fort Payne, Alabama. The Shelby County Community Corrections team was able to expand their laboratory footprint and expand their testing capacity resulting in a highly efficient testing program.

Julius Cook, Executive Director at Shelby County Community Corrections, stated:

“Customer Service from everyone at DTPM is extraordinary. They respond immediately and leave no stone unturned to ensure they meet their customers’ needs. The DTPM team is always available to help and our relationship with them feels more like family rather than customer-vendor.”

About DTPM

DTPM has 30 years of experience in the drug court testing segment. The products and services provide comprehensive solutions to help a drug court operate efficiently and economically. Initially, our team works with a drug court to understand their operation and identify pain points where our solutions can help with workflow, efficiency, and economic considerations.

DTPM offers simple solutions like screening drug cups up to the most advanced solution of instrument-based drug testing. DTPM developed a cloud-based information system, Phoenix, to assist with scheduling random participant testing, test result collection and storage, and managing chain of custody documents.

Services offered include full-laboratory setup and compliance management, confirmation testing, instrument service contracts, and laboratory consumables like urine collection cups, FreeWipe lint-free wipes, lab coats, etc.