The Flaw in Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Drug testing of welfare recipients was recently signed into law by Missouri Governor Nixon. While no one wants tax payer money being spent on purchasing illegal drugs, it is very disheartening to focus this kind enforcement on just the poor. What about legislators, farmers, state workers, doctors, hospitals, nurses, teachers, social workers, and businesses who receive tax credits who also receive state money – why not drug test them? The answer is very simple—they have enough political clout to keep this from happening. Unfortunately poor people don’t have enough political clout. If this was about just protecting tax payer money – more people would be targeted for drug testing than just the poor.

Many folks who supported this legislation are of the mindset that we need less government in our daily lives. However, they make the exception when it comes to making poor folks adhere to rules that they are not willing to apply to themselves.

I predict that this legislation will cost more money than it saves. The legislation will have legal challenges and the new law will not be administered in a uniform manner because of how the legislation is written. No one knows how many folks on welfare use illegal drugs and it is uncertain if there are enough drug treatment programs to handle poor folks who are referred for treatment.

I am sure that many legislators who support this legislation did so because they thought they were protecting tax payers from abuse. But my fear is that this is simply another attempt to reduce the number of folks who receive public assistance. If legislators truly want to reduce misuse of government funds, focus your legislation on folks who are receiving big checks from the state and not limit this legislation on folks who on the average are taking home $230 per month in TANF benefits per family.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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