With the legalization of marijuana around the Arkansas Valley becoming more prevalent, hiring people who can pass a drug test may prove to be challenging for some businesses.
This was an issue brought up during the Bent County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, when Crystal Redner brought up the issue she was having at the early learning center. According to Redner the center hasn’t been able to hire new people due to them failing their drug test for marijuana.
“The drug testing is another piece that's mandated by the county and it’s killing us,” Redner said.
She said that recently they had five applicants who passed every step of the hiring process only to fail the drug test which prevented them from being hired. This could prove to be costly due to two of their employees inching closer to having to take a maternity leave.
“I called all the centers here and nobody drug tests, I called Prowers county and interestingly enough they don’t even drug test for their county employees unless it’s required by law like for road and bridge, they said,” she said.
This led her to ask the commissioners if there was anything they could do to waive a drug test, because what they have now is holding back their hiring.
“The other side of that is as a parent with a child in your care, I’m not very comfortable with having a chance of you having whatever drug in your system whether it’s a pain killer or something else,” Bent County Commissioner Jean Sykes said.
County Administrator Calvin Feik added that the reason the county drug tests employees because of the federal funding they receive. No decision about dropping the drug testing during the meeting was made, however county commissioner Kim MacDonnell was willing to research options to help with the problem.
“I’m just in a bind because come next month I don’t have enough staff,” Redner said.
She added that if someone did show up to work smelling like marijuana she wouldn’t let them work at the center. And as long as their marijuana usage doesn’t affect their work she said she would be willing to hire them.
In other business from the county commissioners meeting, the commissioners passed resolutions to vacate portions of County Rd 20 and 1st Street in Hasty. Bent County Area Extension Agent Abby Weber was also in attendance to talk about an extension funding grant.
The grant opportunity is from The Office of Behavioral Health, for youth opioid prevention in Bent County. She said the Bent County extension office been asked to program share with Prowers and Otero County, as well as potentially Kiowa and Baca County. She said she is willing to share the program with the other counties but not the funding.
“Bent County is eligible for $100,000 a year for five years, with a large portion of that going toward salary for somebody to keep data and operate that grant portion for us,” Weber said.
She also said that their would be a partnership between the extension office and Bent County Public health to share the programming they receive. The program would focus on six Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Strategies.
The six strategies are education, environmental, information dissemination, alternative activities, community-based processes and problem identification and referral. This program would be included into the already established programs offered by the extension office.
Bent county hasn’t received the grant yet and wouldn’t receive the funding from it until July. But Weber indicated that she would like to get started on filling out all of the paperwork necessary to receive the grant this month.
The next Bent County Commissioners meeting is scheduled to be held at the Bent County Courthouse Thursday, at 9 a.m.