What Happened When Arizona Drug Tested People on Welfare

July 24th 2015

Sarah Gray

Thirteen states have passed some form of law mandating drug testing for recipients or applicants for certain types of public assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). These laws have been passed in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah—although Florida's law was halted by a District Court, a ruling that was upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

"As of May 2015, at least 16 states have proposed legislation requiring some form of drug testing or screening for public assistance recipients this year," the NCSL reports. The states include Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Hawaii has also created a proposal for the state to study the issue.

These policies may require a person to submit to to a drug test when applying for or receiving forms of public assistance such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or Medicaid. Some are targeted at all recipients, while others may just target those suspected of using drugs. However, the big question that remains is do these policies work?

In March 2015, an article in the Tucson Sentinel examined the program in Arizona—which was the first state to implement such a program in 2009—and the results were shocking. Arizona requires those who show "reasonable cause" to take a drug test when applying for TAnF. From the Tucson Sentinel:

"In the five and a half years since Arizona began the drug tests for adults receiving funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the state’s welfare program, 26 people have lost benefits due to the drug tests, three of whom for actually failing the drug test, according to figures provided by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which administers the program.

"When applying for TANF benefits, 42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test, 16 of whom passed. The other 23 were stripped of their benefits for failing to take the drug test."

The reasoning may be Arizona's "reasonable cause" clause, which only tests applicants who respond that they have used drugs in the past 30 days. The goal was to save the state an estimated $1.7 million, but the savings have come nowhere near that, and the drug testing cost the state close to $500.

Earlier this year, ThinkProgress found similar results when looking at seven states that had implemented drug test policies for those receiving welfare. For example:

"In 2011, Missouri adopted a law to require screening and testing for all TANF applicants, and the testing began in March 2013. In 2014, 446 of the state’s 38,970 applicants were tested. Just 48 tested positive.

"The budgeted cost for that year’s testing program was $336,297. And, according to numbers provided to ThinkProgress by a Missouri Department of Social Services spokeswoman, the first three years of the program will likely cost the state more than $1.35 million, including start-up costs."

Despite this fact some lawmakers, such as current Wisconsin governor and 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker, are looking to implement similar policies.

Is drug testing people on welfare effective?

This video pretty much sums it up...Source: http://bit.ly/1Avy2Bi

Posted by ATTN: on Monday, February 16, 2015

Beyond the fact that drug testing those who are receiving or are applying for public assistance is a waste of time and money, it also serves to criminalize those living in poverty. It creates an atmosphere where some may not want to apply for benefits, or get help for their addiction—creating a stigma, ThinkProgress reports.