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Florida Welfare Drug Test Law Did Not Yield Savings, State Data Reveals


In a four-month period last year when Florida required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing, the program yielded no savings, caught few drug users, and did not affect the number of people who applied, The New York Times reports.

The program was halted after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sued the state to stop it. The group obtained state data that showed from July through October 2011, 2.6 percent of welfare applicants failed the drug test, and an additional 40 people did not take the test.

Applicants paid the cost of the test, an average of $30. If they passed, the state reimbursed them. The cost to Florida was $118,140 for drug tests—more than would have been paid out in benefits to those who failed the test, according to Derek Newton, Communications Director for the ACLU of Florida. He said the testing cost the government an additional $45,780.

Georgia instituted a similar law this week. It is expected to face legal challenges. A number of other states are considering similar measures, according to the newspaper.

Florida passed a bill earlier this year that would test state workers for drugs. Florida Governor Rick Scott is delaying implementation of the law in response to legal challenges. The bill would be the first of its kind in the country. It would allow up to 10 percent of state employees to be randomly tested every three months. The measure also would make it easier to fire a worker who had a single confirmed positive drug test.

11 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Jake
    Jake / February 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I wonder how many people left Florida as a result of the new law, and avoided the drug test and these statistics only to suck up the welfare tax dollars in another state . . .

  2. Avatar of diane
    diane / May 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Even 1 positive is too many!!!! How many people didnt take test?

    • ken hickerson / September 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      40 people did not take the test. 3rd sentence.

  3. Bill Crane / April 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    All they really needed to do was to check all the other poorly inspired efforts of dru testing welfare recipients for the past 10 – 15 years and they would have found out that there is absolutely no cost savings. It never has. This is how right-wing Republicans handle public money – and they call themselves fiscally responsible?

  4. Bob / April 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t believe the results of this analysis. I am betting it was a group against testing that used the data. Why did 40 people not take the test? How many people in all were tested? I may have to move to Florida if they are stating only 2.9% of floridians on welfare are taking drugs, because I know new York where I am is a lot higher.

    • Allen / July 29, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      It would never work because you would simply not use drugs for a week or two apply for benifits and take the test then you are good for at least a year. The test was a silly idea and people will always find ways around it. Education and opportunity has been the only proven way to curb substance abuse and other crime as well

  5. meltee / April 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    On the face of it, these policies seem to be conducive to establishing norms that illicit drug use is frowned upon, and they raise the costs of using drugs (similar to increasing the purchase price of alcohol, but just a different sort of cost)
    And yet…….. sentiment seems to oppose putting hurdles in the way of folks needing welfare, and picking on state employees. The item says the welfare testing did not produce cost savings for the state in a four month period. But of course, over a longer time frame the initial costs of screening may become less than the long term costs of paying out benefits.
    On the other hand, I bet no one looked at “hidden costs” of the program such as welfare applicants denied benefits who turn to crime to survive, or the costs to health care for kids who don’t eat because the parents can’t get benefits.
    I don’t know if the welfare (or employee) screen programs have any treatment components built in. I somehow doubt it, since they seem intended more as punitive than restorative measures. But if there was some remediation opportunity associated with the screenings would that make them seem more acceptable?

  6. Houghton / April 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I have been working in the addiction world for 7 years. It is beyond me how the data I get for Department of Health, Office of Medical Examiner is always at best 2 years old. How does the NY times get in in 4 months? I don’t think you can evaluate any program with any relevance in less than two years.

  7. Avatar of Erik
    Erik / June 14, 2012 at 12:37 am

    reportedly, only 40 people canceled their test, but the overall caseload remained the same.

  8. Avatar of Lucy
    Lucy / September 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    ….proving that 40 cases is a drop in the bucket to them.

  9. Lucy / September 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Why did 40 people not take the test?
    Some found jobs. Some couldn’t pass. Some didn’t want their rights violated. Some were so poor that they couldn’t afford the $30 test, which is why they needed the help in the first place.
    How many people in all were tested?
    Thousands. The exact number can be found through the Department of Children and Families. Since I don’t remember the exact number, I won’t quote it.

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