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Former Head of Drug Control Policy Calls Welfare Drug Tests Counterproductive


Barry McCaffrey, the former head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), called Florida’s new law that requires drug testing for welfare applicants counterproductive.

General McCaffrey spoke at a news conference at the Twelve Oaks Treatment Center in Navarre, Florida during an event honoring Recovery Month. According to WCTV, General McCaffrey said one out of four returning veterans is addicted to drugs or alcohol. “We owe them significant interventions in their lives,” he said.

When asked about Florida’s new drug-testing law, which affects some veterans, General McCaffrey called it misguided, according to the news report. “What kind of sense does that make? You’ve got to make the barriers to entering rehabilitation low. You want people in treatment,” he said. General McCaffrey was confirmed as ONDCP Director in February 1996, and stepped down in January 2001.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s new law, which took effect July 1. It requires applicants to be responsible for the cost of the screening. They can recover the costs if they qualify for assistance. Under the law, applicants who fail the drug screen can designate another person to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.

11 Responses to this article

  1. jeff / October 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Back to General MacCaffrey and the veterans. The veterans only count for a small portion of the population applying for Welfare. The welfare system has been abused for too many years and it’s time to do something about it. This might or might not be the answer, but it’s worth a try!

  2. jeff / October 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I agree with John B French. Why should a person receive welfare and work the system if they can’t pass a simple drug test. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. If mandatory treatment is the option it will fail in a bad way. The people that are required to undergo treatment don’t want to be there in the first place, do you really think thats going to work. Some people really do need welfare in order to feed their children and have to make a decision to not use drugs or enter a treatment program that can help them to help themselves. I went through a court ordered treatment and didn’t want to be there. I didn’t take it seriously and it didn’t work. I think the drug testing policy is the right thing to do!

  3. John B French / October 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Ok-well then what’s the answer. We have a generational process going on here. Where the kids don’t work because the parents don’t work-don’t even look for a job, and their parents didn’t work. AND getting high is not even looked on as a problem-it’s just normal. And this is OK???

  4. john / September 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    We had this law in San Diego County and if a person tested positive thay were referred to treatment and were able to still get the assistance. The ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance filed suit and killed the very successful program. The only thing these two organizations want is the right to use drugs and kill yourself.

  5. Avatar of compassion
    compassion / September 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Joshua is right, this is more of the right wing movement to move all the wealth to the top away from those who need it most.

  6. Joshua / September 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    it’s not counterproductive, it does exactly what it was intended to do, scare people out of applying for benefits they are entitled to. do you really think the people who wrote the legeslation wer thinking “this sure will help people stop using and get treatment”? no it was “this’ll keep those drugged out losers from taking any of my tax money”

  7. Dave / September 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Testing wouldn’t be a bad idea providing:
    The State paid for it
    It led directly to treatment
    Welfare was provided while in treatment.

    As is, I agree nit’s counterproductive.

  8. Avatar of Luis L
    Luis L / September 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    A politician making sense; what’s this world coming to?

  9. Carlos / October 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    No, from what I understand and have read about the ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance is not only about the people constitutional rights do not get violated (especially if they are poor and disfranchise), but beginning to start making laws and policies consistent with the science. When their is compelling evidence that laws and policies they are planning is not going to provide the outcome they image. Politicians ought to at least listen. Some times what appears plausible turns out not to be so accurate. Good honest science is a safeguard against human error. Our human cognition is not as accurate as we think or we wish would be. We may have attitudes about science, but unless you have a good understanding of science we do not have many good points to make. One obvious and noted evidence of our cognitive limitation is when Galileo proved that the world was not flat and the sun does not rotate around the earth. Imaged not know what we know now about our planet. The world does look like the world is flat and the sun does rotate around the earth. This is not the only sample, there are numerous issues today for which we have not taken the correct action because we believe human or the nature of certain condition “appears to be a certain way. Until we tested then we realized that it was not so.

  10. Carlos / October 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I would not mind so much that notion except that what patients get is not getting actual treatment. What we call treatment is a dismal failure. You can not go around saying that only 5 out of 100 patients will actually reach the goal of abstinence and call it treatment. That is total coincident, the patients were around a treatment facility at the time they stop drinking or using drugs. Any other treatment approach like plastic surgery, even psychiatric and cancer do not get worse outcome than substance use treatment. When treatment facilities get off the idea that what they do, before they call it treatment it has to have evidence and it must be supported by empirical quantitative scientific studies. Clinical practitioners can not just go around making any rubbish up and because it looks plausible call it treatment. There is got to be a connection between what they do and the actual outcome. It works this way you see; you have a head ache, you take an aspiring a few minutes later the head goes away. Numerous patients with head aches take aspirin after experiencing a head ache that actually improve their condition. There is an actual connection between taking the aspirin and the head ache’s alleviations.

    In substance abuse “treatment” we implement numerous approaches, yet the patient does not improve. So we do the same approach to one hundred patients yet only 5 patients actually reach the goal for which they went to “treatment”. That is not an outcome that is pure unadulterated coincidence. It is more like placebo effect. Placebo effect is what pharmaceutical actually do double blind trials, beside placebo is not a very high rate of positive outcome. Stop calling it treatment because it isn’t treatment. Treatment actually has positive outcomes, patients reach the goal for which they attended, spend money and a good amount of time and attention. There is nothing worse than lying to ourselves and then lying to the patient. That is either creating an imaginary illusion or a delusion. Given that we continuo to insist that what treatment staff is treatment, I am beginning to believe that there is something pathological insisting that a delusion is actually true, against all evidence in the contrary.

    We keep blaming patients for something that is not their responsibility. Outcome is always the responsibility of the professional staff, whether it is mental health substance abuse or a heart transplant, or a simple headache.

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