Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Random Drug Tests of State Employees Providing Mental Health Services to Prisoners and to Residents of State Hospitals Upheld; Ruling Not Disturbed

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Random Drug Tests of State Employees Providing Mental Health Services to Prisoners and to Residents of State Hospitals Upheld; Ruling Not Disturbed

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the Sixth Circuit that upheld a random drug testing program imposed by the State of Michigan on various state employees. Among the employees subject to testing are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nurses who provide health and mental health services to prisoners and residents at state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. It has been established that random drug tests constitute a "search" and the Fourth Amendment generally protects individuals from searches without an "individualized suspicion" justifying the search. However, an exception to this requirement exists when a state can show a special need for the drug test.

Even though there was no evidence of a preexisting or pervasive drug problem among these employees, the Sixth Circuit ruled that a special need for the drug tests had been established. The court reasoned that because these employees have access to medications, including controlled substances, they might abuse this access, and the health and safety of their patients may be put in jeopardy if these employees are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. …

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