Michigan’s Department of Human Services says it is still in the “early process” of developing drug-screening policies for welfare benefit recipients, but have said the plan is “feasible.”
Previous efforts to drug-test all welfare recipients in Michigan and other states have been struck down by the courts as too intrusive and sweeping.
According to a DHS report [PDF]
, the agency would recommend a pilot program for “suspicion-based” drug testing of applicants and recipients using a drug-screening process — but does not specify what, exactly, would cause “suspicion.”
DHS Deputy Director Brian Rooney said that a policy screening applicants to only test “likely drug users” is fair, and helps them get off public assistance.
Now, exactly how does Rooney plan to pick out the “likely drug users”? Will he be needing records of their music purchases, drive-through fast food orders, or selections of reading material?
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The agency recommended assistance from “drug court treatment professionals” (whose jobs, of course, depend upon pathologizing marijuana use) and law enforcement (ditto, plus the widespread irrational hatred of cannabis and those who use it by many in the police force) in formulating the proposal to pick which applicants and recipients are tested.
“Employers do not want anybody working for them that has substance abuse problems,” Rooney claimed. “So that is part and parcel of becoming self-sufficient.”
According to Rooney, applicants who test positive for drugs would get a chance to reapply for assistance after completing a “treatment program
.” He said he hopes the Michigan Legislature will vote on the policy before April.
According to many human services advocates, though, even “targeted” drug testing of the kind suggested by Rooney would not be worth the cost of the program. They add that it’s difficult for low-income and indigent people to find “treatment programs,” especially ones with room for “marijuana addicts,” of all things.
The DHS report says a variety of drug screening options are available, from simple questions on the welfare benefits application to professional urinalysis.
“We have determined it is feasible to do this testing,” Akerly said, reports Maria Amante at The Saginaw News
. “What the exact process would be — that’s still to be determined … It’s being discussed, and I’d say it’s more than just a discussion. It’s a push in that direction, but it is not a done deal.”
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Rep. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) lost no time in coming out in support of drug testing welfare recipients.
“We want to make sure tax dollars are being paid in the state of Michigan are being used for their intended purpose,” Horn said, which evidently in his mind means spending scarce tax dollars to force poor and hungry people to piss in a cup before you’ll feed them.
Horn, however, said he wanted to make sure Michigan’s drug-testing policy, which he claimed was “popular,” doesn’t get struck down in the courts like those in other states which have implemented such policies.
Costs in 12 states doing such drug testing of welfare recipients were found to range all the way from $92,487 to $20 million annually, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Urinalysis costs from $25 to $44 per test, and hair follicle testing costs from $75 to $150 per test.
Thirty-six states have proposed laws that would require applicants for and recipients of public aid programs to under drug testing through urinalysis.
Florida and Missouri became the two most recent states to implement drug testing welfare laws, with different approaches.
Florida’s law took effect in July and required all welfare recipients to pass a suspicionless drug test as a condition to participate in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But in October, a federal judge issued an injunction
blocking Florida’s Department of Children and Families from further drug testing.
In Missouri, their law took effect in August and requires the state’s Department of Social Services to develop a program to test each applicant or recipient of TANF benefits and drug test each person the department has “reasonable cause,” quote unquote, “to believe, based on a screening, engages in illegal use of controlled substances.”
The frequency of testing is one thing causing the Michigan Legislature to proceed with caution, according to Horn. He said one of the unanswered questions is if welfare recipients need to be tested when first entering the program or every time they get a check, and if every recipient will be tested.
“It’s a big question,” Horn said. “The randomness of it is what causes the heartburn in the courts … We’re just acting cautiously.”
Horn said that DHS agents will have to make “judgment calls” themselves on whether or not to test applicants. So basically, the big plan is, if your particular DHS agent takes a dislike to you, for whatever reason — maybe it’s that damn t-shirt! — they can arbitrarily decide to “suspect you of drug use.”
Great plan, dumbfucks.