CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Steve Patrick sees it all the time: the looks of concerned parents suspecting or struggling with their children's drug use.
As the owner of a drug testing business in Hurricane with companies, schools and universities as his primary clients, Patrick said it breaks his heart whenever he has to charge $50 when parents show up seeking answers for their kids' behavior.
So he's offering them free tests by appointment Saturday.
"I personally know friends who have had trouble with their kids," Patrick said. "I think this is a way to give back."
Patrick said it's the first time he's offered such an event and he's not sure what the response will be. So far, Patrick hasn't seen many families sign up, but he's hoping the word gets out and that families who know each other band together in a "you take your kid, I'll take mine" approach.
"I have a feeling there will be some walk-ins," Patrick said. "It's a very difficult thing for parents to do, to say, 'Hey, let's go check you out.' There's a pushback from kids. It's tough."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has the nation's second-highest rate of poisoning deaths. Dr. Elizabeth Scharman, head of the West Virginia Poison Center, has said such deaths are predominantly overdoses from prescriptions drugs.
And state health officials say substance abuse plays a role in one-fifth of state births.
CEO Michael Lotterstein of test kit supplier The Drug Test Consultants of Tarzana, Calif., said Patrick's idea to test children for free is unique.
"You don't see if often," Lotterstein said. "I think Steve is an innovator. I think what he's doing is great. Rarely would you see someone offering this."
Many websites, including major retailers, already offer U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved home kits ranging from single-drug tests to a dozen illicit and prescription drugs.
For families that reserve a spot from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Patrick will test for 10 classes of illicit and prescription drugs at Reliant Drug Test Solutions.
They include cocaine; marijuana; amphetamines, including Ecstacy; barbiturates; methamphetamine; opiates such as heroin, morphine, and codeine; PCP, methadone, Xanax and similar benzodiazepines; and oxycodone.
Patrick said the parents will learn the results almost immediately because the urine tests are done on site.