DENVER (CBS4) - The state could be stuck covering millions of dollars in DUI and drug tests after the Colorado Bureau of Investigations announced it would do the tests for free. Most law enforcement had been paying a private lab in Boulder to process their tests.
The owner of that lab, ChemaTox, says she's now lost 75% of her business and will have to shut her doors.
"I have done nothing, but try to help the State of Colorado and for all my service, they have destroyed my life," said Sarah Urfer.
She came to the rescue of the state six years ago when its lab abruptly closed amid scandal.
"So overnight we went from 25% to 100% or nearly 100% of the state testing. The whole thing overnight. No warning, no preparation, no financial support from the state to deal with the increase."
She says she spent half of a million dollars to meet the new demand and now CBI's lab, which has a history of faulty tests, has taken her business with no warning.
"It's my life. It's everything and I stand to lose all of it."
CBI Director John Camper claims they didn't think offering the tests for free would give them a monopoly and sink the only private lab in the state.
"We had good intentions."
He says they wanted to gather better data on pot use in Colorado and rural law enforcement couldn't afford the $300 tests so they asked the legislature's Joint Budget Committee for an additional $600,000 to cover the cost.
They now may need at least $3 million to cover testing for all law enforcement. Camper says they knew some law enforcement would switch to them for the free tests.
"But by all means we didn't think it would be enough that ChemaTox would need or want to close down." He admits CBI doesn't have the manpower to handle ChemaTox's additional 8,000 tests a year and he says there will likely be delays in criminal investigations.
"We need to evaluate how we can best provide that service and keep turnaround times going quickly."
State Rep. Jonathan Singer says lawmakers are blindsided.
"I'm foreseeing a house of cards here."
The Boulder County Democrat says the state shouldn't be putting small private business out of business.
"We need hearings on this. We need this out in public and we need to figure out exactly how much this is going to cost the taxpayers, how we're going to pay for it, and, at the same time, make sure people get speedy trials. This is the basics of our constitution."
The chair of the Joint Budget Committee says they thought the money they approved was to help rural departments only and weren't aware of a potential impact on private business. The committee meets this Friday and will be revisiting the issue.
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