By Phillip Smith
The Republican-controlled Michigan House Friday approved a bill that would allow for the suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients. The bill, House Bill 4118, now heads to the state Senate.
The bill would set up a pilot program in three counties, to be evaluated after one year. The Department of Human Services would report results to the legislature.
It would require new welfare applicants to undergo a screening for drug use using an "empirically validated substance abuse screening tool," and if the screening indicates the likelihood of drug use, "the applicant is required to take a substance abuse test." The same procedure would apply to existing welfare recipients, who would be required to be screened annually.
Drug testing would be paid for by the state, unless the applicant or recipient tested positive. In that case, he or she would have to pay for the test.
People who tested positive on a drug test could continue to receive benefits if they enter drug treatment, while those refusing or failing to follow treatment would lose their benefits.
The Michigan legislature is following in the footsteps of a handful of other states that have passed public benefits drug testing bills. This despite evidence in recent weeks that such programs have few tangible benefits. In Utah, for example, authorities screened more than 4,400 welfare applicants, but found only nine who tested positive on drug tests.