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Texas Plan to Test Welfare Applicants for Drugs Would Hurt Children, Critics Say

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A plan that would require applicants for welfare and unemployment benefits in Texas to be tested for drugs would hurt children, critics argue. The plan is backed by Governor Rick Perry.

Under the proposed plan, only applicants considered to be at high risk for drug use would be tested. Those who failed the drug test and lost benefits could reapply in six months if they underwent drug treatment, the Houston Chronicle reports. Those who did not undergo treatment could reapply for benefits in a year.

State Representative Sylvester Turner said the proposal singles out the poor and jobless. “Let’s say you may have a mom or father who’s taking care of the children who may be on drugs. In order to get the adult, you are going to penalize the children? What are you going to do then? What about the children?” he asked.

State Senator Judith Zaffirini said the proposal would have unintended consequences. “If a parent is addicted to drugs, then that problem should be dealt with, and a child should not be left hungry and not caused to face health risks because of the misbehavior of a parent,” she told the newspaper.

Supporters of the measure say children of people who use drugs are already suffering, and testing could deter their parents from drug abuse. They add the proposal could serve as an incentive for treatment, and improve the chances for employment and self sufficiency.

A Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing was halted last year after the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state to stop it. About 2.5 percent of the 4,000 adults tested before the program was stopped tested positive for drugs. Almost 2,500 people refused to take the drug test.

7 Responses to this article

  1. AddictionMD / December 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I agree with other comments that children of actively drug-using parents suffer when the monthly check (intended for food, clothing, and shelter) is diverted to the drug dealer and when parents are intoxicated or sick from withdrawal and not able to attend to their children, or worse, actively abusing them.

    Potential loss of income could be a powerful incentive for recovery from addiction, if there is a connection with addiction treatment and if the punishments for drug use and the rewards of sobriety are immediate and consistent.

    This is an evidence-based best practice in addiction treatment known as “contingency management”. It is successfully employed in workplace monitoring programs, physician and nurse health programs, and drug and alcohol courts with excellent outcomes. To do it well takes resources- frequent monitoring of drug use, access to treatment, and a swift response to positive drug screens. When done on the cheap- as in predictable monthly testing associated with probation or parole visits- it’s not so effective.

    It is not clear that this Texas law includes the wrap around services and frequent monitoring needed to insure a successful path to recovery and out of poverty.

  2. Avatar of M.K. King
    M.K. King / December 1, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Do those children need to be in the presence of their drug using parents or Texas testing the parents for drugs, which is worse for the children ?? If Texas is TRULY worried about the children, then if the parents test positive, Get The Parents The Help They Need To Fight The DISEASE of Addiction. The last 2 things that need to happen are children taken away by DHS and Texas to stop with financial help. If NON-Addicts understood addiction like they THINK they do without doing any research whatsoever, then they would not be saying the stupid things that are being said here ! Addiction is a disease, nobody that has been doing drugs for a long period of time is getting “High” anymore, Getting that “high” only last the first 6 months of using, after they are addicted it is a matter of taking the drugs just to not get deathly sick, Non-Addicts Please do research on addiction before you think you know what you have been told or heard by the clueless masses !

  3. Avatar of Sarah
    Sarah / November 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Maybe before they start wasting money on drug tests they should start spending more money on child protection. Texas is the #1 state by 2 times state #2, Florida, on child abuse deaths and is the state that spends the least in preventing child abuse. Also who is paying for drug treatment if these people are already unemployed or underemployed?

  4. Avatar of KATHY COREY
    KATHY COREY / November 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    i TRULY DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THE FUSS OVER TESTING FOR DRUGS WITH WELFARE RECIPIENTS. AS AN EMPLOYEE I HAVE TO BE TESTED AND RANDOMLY TESTED TO KEEP MY JOB. IF POSITIVE AND AFFECTS FAMILY, CHILDREN IS THE SAME AS IF I TEST POSITIVE AND MY FAMILY IS AFFECTED BY LOSS OF INCOME. DO WE TRULY WANT TO HELP THE RECIPIENTS OF FUNDS OR JUST SLOUGH OFF AND CONTINUE TO ENDORSE THEIR HABITS WITH BO ACTION? COMES DOWN TO CHOICE…

  5. Avatar of Missy Rand
    Missy Rand / November 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    If only 2.5% of the 4,000 persons tested positive, this is significantly below the national average of 8.9% reported in the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from SAMHSA. In 2010, the most recent survey summary released, an estimated 22.6 million people aged 12 or older, or 8.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older, said they had used illicit drugs in the past month – an increase from 8.0 in 2008, a change largely attributed to a rise in marijuana use, from 14.4 million Americans in 2007 to 17.4 million Americans in 2010.6

    From Faces of Medicaid III: Refining the Portrait of People with Multiple Chronic Conditions: Poverty is also found to be correlated with the co-occurrence of medical and behavioral health conditions. Adults with mental illness/substance use disorders are twice as likely to have incomes less than 150% of poverty level as adults without either disorder. See more at http://www.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/topics/data/disorders.aspx. Let’s get people treatment instead of scuttling them and their children out onto the streets to get worse!

  6. Avatar of Gregory
    Gregory / November 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Great ideal…Welfare is not a career. If the parents can do drugs, have cell phones, cable and other items above their means, then they should gaining a trade and seeking ways to imoprove their lives.

  7. Avatar of James Page
    James Page / December 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    2,500 refused to test, which severly effects the %. 2,500 is greater then half of the 4,000 that were tested, of which 2.5% failed. Also there are other factors not taken into consideration such as the 1/2 life of drugs. What % of these parents are testing positive for Amphetamines, Heroin, Marijuana are these tests sophisticated enough to catch drugs like 2c1 or bath salts.. I would assume the greater perentage is marijuana user just based on half life and saturation. If states like Wash, Col, are legalizing marijuana for everyone (welfare recipients included) then is it right to take food from the tables of these parents for the same thing in another state.
    Addiction is widely defined as a disease, BIO/Pysch/Soc disorder that generally is more prevelent and less treatable in poverty stricken locations. To the people that reference themselves in these laws while they are not “addicts/alcoholics” is comparable to me a non-diabetic referencing the ways I conduct my grocery shopping, dieting and other lifestyle choices in comparison to a type-2 diabetic. Spending More money on systems that are designed to “fight drug abuse” is futile and an enormous waste of resource. We should admit drug use will be likely a ongoing malignancy and develope and improve our existing ways of treatment not battle.

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