Lawrence Co. Sheriff moves to automated kiosk for 24/7 program

Pre-COVID, staff administered Preliminary Breath Tests (PBTs) manually at the Lawrence County Jail, a process that will soon become automated, with the County Commission’s approval of an Automated Breathalyzer Kiosk for clients to use.

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DEADWOOD — The days of blowing into a monitoring device for manual breathalyzer testing with jail staff administering are nearing their end at the Lawrence County Jail, as the Lawrence County Commission approved a request from Sheriff Brian Dean to rent an automated breathalyzer kiosk for the 24/7 program at a cost of $1,390 per month.

“24-7, you may recall, is a program that allows people to come to our office, most commonly, a couple times a day, and give a PBT (preliminary breath test),” Dean said. “I’m sure you can appreciate what that looks like for our staff in the era of COVID. We had to shut it down last year. Our staff would have the PBT device and, basically, the way you administer it is, you have somebody blow through a tube and put your hand up on the other side until you can feel the breath hitting the palm of your hand, then you push a button, and it does a reading. Well, for obvious reasons, we don’t want people spitting on our staff during COVID, so we had to shut it down.”

In the past, Dean has been able to pay for one person working the existing PBT program for one hour per day with a state grant, which was denied this year.

“As with all things Lawrence County, we’re extremely frugal with our money, and we’ve got too much money built up in our account,” Dean said.

Lawrence County Auditor Brenda McGruder said the account currently has around $150,279 in it.

“It’s a fair amount of money,” Dean said. “So we’re going to try to serve two masters with one program. They make a kiosk which amounts to a piece of equipment that mounts to the wall. So those people that are involved in the program would come in and get a fresh straw and place it into the hole in the kiosk, blow into it, and get the readings that they need.”

Because the program change is unexpected and, therefore, not budgeted for, Dean requested a $10,000 budget supplement that the commission is expected to consider at a public hearing April 27.

“We believe that with a little bit of patience and some effort, we can actually have a revenue of about $1,380 a month, so we’re only going to be out of pocket about $10 a month, once we get going,” Dean said. “But the point is, this opportunity, or situation, this growth for this program could not have been anticipated 11 months ago, so the money was not put in to cover the cost of the rental fee.”

Commissioner Richard Sleep asked if there would be months when the program wouldn’t be used.

Dean said there wouldn’t be months when it wouldn’t be used, but that the number really fluctuates.

“Really, the breaking point, and what our hope is, the number 23,” Dean said. “If we hit the number of 23, we’re $10 short per month and honestly, with the utility that this kiosk provides, we’re anticipating that it will, in all likelihood, far exceed that number.”

Lawrence County Chief Deputy Tavis Little said Friday that over the last three years, the sheriff’s office has averaged 75 people on 24/7 and has had an average of 16 “PBTing” daily and 23 people PBTing per day in 2020.

Commissioner Randall Rosenau added that the program is a court-ordered program.

The 24-7 Sobriety Monitoring Program is court-mandated and requires those arrested for or convicted of alcohol-involved offenses to take twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet. Those who test positive or skip their tests are immediately subject to sanctions.

The kiosk consists of a stand-alone interactive kiosk and a cloud-based client management software program that work closely in tandem.

Implementing the autonomous system allows for potential reductions in administrative workloads and costs for front-line personnel.

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