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Mandating drug testing

All told, states spent another 0,909.25 on the testing regimes in 2015 to uncover just 321 positive tests — in more than one state, none at all.

This came after a February 2015 Think Progress examination of the seven states that had implemented drug testing programs for TANF applicants and/or recipients.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare applicants resurfaced in the General Assembly last week, renewing the legal and ethical debate over how to help Ohios neediest.

Supporters say drug users often go on public assistance to help support their habits, and drug testing would identify users and give them access to help.

“If the issue were addressing substance abuse and providing treatment, this is not the approach,” said Liz Schott, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“This is not a policy-based or evidence-based approach or use of resources.” Arizona’s drug testing requirements apply only to Cash Assistance adult recipients, rather than applicants.

A public information officer for the state’s Department of Economic Security told Think Progress that the monthly average of adult recipients in 2015 was 5,683.

In 2015, just six recipients were required to submit to a drug test and none resulted in a positive test.But several other states have passed laws to screen all applicants or beneficiaries and to test those for whom they determine a “reasonable suspicion,” most recently Arkansas last April.Neither that state’s nor Alabama’s 2014 testing requirements have yet been implemented, but, with earlier laws going into effect for the first time in 2015, 10 states now require at least some drug testing for TANF beneficiaries.Schaffer and other supporters of the bill testified in favor of it before a Senate subcommittee last week.Opponents are expected to appear before the committee when hearings resume next year on a new version.Would questioning applicants about drug use be considered as discouraging them from applying for assistance, something caseworkers are legally barred from doing?The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is monitoring the legislation but does not have a position on it, said agency spokesman Benjamin Johnson.But opponents question the intent of such laws, saying that no studies suggest that drug use is any greater among welfare recipients than any other group.Is this just one more attempt to demonize the poor? " Although drug abuse is a problem for some welfare recipients, Potts said, its not the only problem that they and their caseworkers battle.She also has to be screened and possibly tested for substance abuse.And if she tests positive, she won’t receive benefits.

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