North Carolina Begins Drug Testing Welfare Applicants

| by Robert Fowler
Drug testing kitDrug testing kit

On Feb. 9, the North Carolina General Assembly was presented with the results of the state’s welfare drug testing program. So far, the program has cost $4,900 and has rooted out a fraction of one percent of applicants.

In 2013, the North Carolina legislature had proposed a law that would drug test applicants for the state’s Work First program. Those welfare benefits are specifically for low-income families, largely going to children on the condition that the adults meet work requirements, Breitbart reports.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed the legislation, deeming it government overreach and not cost-effective.

“It’s almost impossible for us to have a consistent method and a fair method to implement such a measure in 100 counties in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I think it’s going to be legally tested, and frankly, it costs too much to do. You won’t get return on your money. This is not a smart way to combat drug use.”

The state legislature overrode McCrory’s veto and allocated funds for the program -- at $55 per drug test.

The law was implemented in August 2015. The results are in, and from August to December 2015, 0.3 percent of total Work First applicants were tested positive for drug use.

During that timetable, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) tested Work First recipients they suspected of drug use, which was 89 out 7,600 applicants. Only 21 tested positive.

Republican State Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County noted that 70 applicants asked to take a drug test never showed up for their appointments.

However, even if they had all tested positive, that would have amounted to 91 drug users — roughly 1 percent of Working First applicants, according to WRAL.

Sen. Hise defended the program as a way to get drug users help.

“It’s an important program for us, most importantly because we’re referring these individuals for treatment, and that’s when we’ll really determine the success of this program.”

Democratic State Sen. Gladys Robinson of Guilford County was less enthusiastic.

“They found very few applicants” Robinson said. “So, we just wasted state dollars, in terms of that piece of legislation and in terms of the time and staff all across the state.”

Other states that have drug testing programs for welfare recipients are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah, according to Independent Journal.

Sources: Breitbart, Independent Journal, WRAL / Photo Credit: Micah Baldwin / Flickr

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