A DAY IN THE LIFE: NO CHEATING THIS TESTER

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People coming to take drug tests at Flagstaff’s TASC office can’t pay in cash, bring children into the restroom, or try to bribe the employees providing the urine tests, according to a long list of rules on the wall.

People have tried to bribe workers before, just as they’ve tried to secretly use urine samples that aren’t theirs, hidden in bags or bottles.

Site Supervisor Sherlyn Murray greets the 15 people heading through the door in less than 30 minutes on Friday morning at Flagstaff’s Treatment Assessment Screening Centers office.

The people arriving for tests chat back and forth with her and each other, as she quickly takes identifications and signatures.

Individuals take these tests as part of getting a new job, and some parents bring their kids for drug testing. But most often those taking the tests have been involved with the court system and are being screened for drugs and alcohol use.

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Murray’s a Flagstaff native who’s been in this business for a little more than a decade, and she says it’s changed her. She’s more empathic but also more aware of the dysfunctional parts of the criminal justice system.

“I’ve watched people come in here and make some miraculous recoveries,” she said.

She’s watched people meet in rehab and get married, and she’s seen children become adults.

But there’s also a sadder side of it.

“I’ve also watched people who’ve come in here and struggled and struggled and struggled. They’ve finished the program … and a month later I’ll see them staggering or lying in a ditch,” Murray said.

Some of the people she once saw routinely have died from overdoses, accidents, or suicides.

The drug du jour changes from time to time: meth, heroin or cocaine, though the test also picks up bath salts and new designer drugs.

There is one constant, though. “Alcohol never dies down,” Murray says.

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People do sometimes try to cheat, via devices used to store others’ urine, even though Murray and the other workers at the center are required to observe collection of samples (her least-favorite part of the job).

She has had samples from people cheating come in unusually hot and also below 90 degrees — at which point, “we declare you dead,” she said.

Some people are required to test once a month as part of probation or drug rehabilitation; others are assigned twice-per-week schedules.

A number of the people coming in for tests are showing signs of some mental illness, and some are seriously mentally ill, Murray said.

Murray tries to get clients out the door as quickly as she can; sometimes she tells them about job openings around town if she knows of any.

“When people walk in here, they’re treated with respect,” she said.

There are a few reasons for this: People behave more politely in her office and attempt to cheat the test less often when she’s respectful toward them, and Murray figures she might have been on the other side of the counter if not for slightly different circumstances and changes in her life.

Everyone’s addicted to something by her reckoning, whether it be drugs or coffee, candy, computer use or television.

She landed in this job by chance, originally for another company. Recently she’s gotten married and is planning a vacation/honeymoon.

The men who collect samples with her, working part-time, are Vietnam veterans.

The people testing in her shop often have a hard time getting jobs if they’ve got a felony, and they are treated differently than others in a number of ways, she said.

She recalled one instance, when the office was in a different location beside a different business (it is now located beside a convenience store on Steves Boulevard).

“The owner of the business came in and he slammed his fists down and said, ‘Your people are in my store,'” Murray recalled.

“I stood up and slammed my fists down and said, ‘That means they’re your customers.'”

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Original Article shown HERE, published by Cyndy Cole, Sun Staff Reporter, April 29, 2013 8:38 am.
She can be reached at ccole@azdailysun.com.