Florida’s Drug Testing System for Welfare Applicants is Flawed, ACLU Says

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida filed court documents this week in support of its lawsuit over the state’s mandatory drug testing system for welfare applicants. The documents suggest the system is flawed, according to The Palm Beach Post.

One applicant who had kidney failure and was on dialysis had to submit urine through a catheter, while another was forced to leave her young children alone with a drug test company employee while she provided a urine sample, the documents reveal. A batch of drug tests from an unapproved lab ended up in a box in an office of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Although the law states that testing positive for drugs alone is not a reason for an investigation, dozens of applicants who tested positive for drugs were referred to the state abuse hotline and investigated, the article notes. The ACLU found some counties did not have approved testing labs, and the DCF would not provide funds for transportation of applicants. Some state workers were concerned about the abuse hotline referrals, according to emails.

In a motion for summary judgment filed this week, ACLU of Florida attorney Maria Kayanan wrote that the documents “reveal a chaotic four-month scramble to implement the new law — a debacle that included spotty compliance with the DCF-mandated testing protocol by agency-approved labs’ failure to provide approved testing sites in numerous counties around the state; erroneous disclosure of applicants’ test results and identifying information; and inappropriate reporting of parents to the statewide Child Abuse Hotline.”

Last year, Florida lawmakers approved mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants. A federal judge temporarily stopped the program in October, and Governor Rick Scott is appealing the decision.

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