Welfare Drug Testing Costs More Than It Saves Study Reveals

drug testingWelfare Drug Testing Is More Costly

Some people think our government can save money by forcing drug users off welfare. They claim that making welfare recipients submit to a drug test (and having taxpayers to fit the bill) will reduce costs. However drug testing kits aren’t cheap, man. So after spending nearly $1 Million on drug tests for people on welfare in seven states the resulting savings haven’t been so good.

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According to state data gathered by ThinkProgress, the seven states with existing programs—Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah—are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to weed out just a few drug users via the use of a mandated drug test.

The drug-testing regimes in the seven states all differ slightly, but the lack of effectiveness is widespread. Statistics reveal that welfare applicants actually test positive for drug use at a lower rate than the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In the seven states that drug test welfare recipeints, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Meanwhile, they’ve collectively spent nearly a  million dollars on the effort. What’s worse? In the coming years they want to spend millions more on drug testing.

Think Progress revealed the costs associated with drug testing in those seven states here are a couple:

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.

Oklahoma passed its law in 2012, requiring a screening of all applicants and chemical tests for those for whom there is a “reasonable cause” to believe they are using illegal substances. From November 2012 through November 2014, 3,342 applicants were screened and 2,992 selected for further testing (though those numbers could include some who applied more than once). Two-hundred and ninety-seven tested positive for illegal substances.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services told ThinkProgress that, not counting personnel and system costs, the state paid $185,219 for the 2013-2014 year for this program, which came out of its TANF and Medicaid budgets.

“The money could certainly be spent on other things if it wasn’t going to drug testing,” said said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator and director of income and work supports at CLASP, a non-profit focused on policy for low-income individuals. “Even if it’s a state where it can’t go to into childcare or cash assistance, it probably comes out of their administration pot, so that’s caseworkers and things like that.”

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Many think that since they have to put up with drug testing in the workplace or pre employment drug testing why should people on welfare not have to pass a drug test? To make things fair. Sure, but a better way to shore things up would be to ban drug testing, especially the embarrassing and demeaning urine drug test for non-life critical jobs all together.

What do you think about drug testing people on welfare? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below…

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