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Friday, May 13, 2011

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

A controversial bill is in the works that would require people receiving welfare to be tested for drugs in order to continue being given financial help. Unfortunately, it is often those who need help the most financially who suffer from substance abuse issues. The goal of the new bill being worked on in Missouri is to keep federal funding from going into the pockets of drug dealers. The bill was passed this week by Missouri’s General Assembly, requiring all work-eligible welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. Individuals testing positive would be cut off from receiving benefits for three years. The bill was sent to Governor Jay Nixon after being approved by the Missouri Senate.

Fortunately, people who test positive the first time will be given an opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the state according to The St. Louis Beacon. If people testing positive for the first time are able to successfully complete a substance abuse treatment program and test negative during a six-month period that starts when they enter treatment they will be able to still receive financial aid. That is the only "get-out-of-jail-free card" that will be offered by the state, a second positive drug test would make the person ineligible for benefits for three years, but, refusing to take a drug test would mean loss of benefits for two years.

There are positives and negatives to both arguments on this subject, undoubtedly the state will save a fortune denying thousands of people their benefits. This bill may prompt people seeking help for the first time regarding their substance abuse. However, many drug addicts have families with young children who rely on their parents regardless of how suited they are to the task at hand; denying benefits may mean that children end up going hungry. Another point of concern worth mentioning is the fact that while the government will test for illicit drugs, it does not appear that they care about alcohol consumption. Alcohol is the drug that affects the most households nationwide. Law makers need to stop viewing alcohol as something different than other drugs. Just because alcohol is legal does not mean that it is any less harmful to a family.

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