Politics

Utah Spends $30K for Welfare Drug Screening, Only Catches 12 Users

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Utah spent more than $30,000 on a new measure to drug test welfare applicants to discover only 12 users.

State data from August 2012 to July 2013 shows 4,730 welfare applicants were given a written screening test. Results identified 466 test takers who were likely drug users.

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They were administered drug tests, which cost the state more than $25,000 alone, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The written test cost about $6,000.

Those who tested positive for drug use are not disqualified from government assistance but will have to attend a substance abuse treatment program.

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Kaysville Republican Rep. Brad Wilson and South Jordan Republican Sen. Aaron Osmond sponsored the legislation in 2011. Wilson called the measure an effort to help welfare applicants get off addictive substances. The law has not faced legal challenge.

Utah is one of eight state that drug test welfare applicants, and at least 29 similar proposals were made this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Critics say drug testing stigmatizes welfare recipients and wastes tax dollars.

Florida enacted a similar measure and got comparable results, according to ThinkProgress. Only 2 percent of welfare recipients in Florida failed drug tests in 2011. A similar measure was scarapped in Virginia after lawmawkers discovered it would cost $1.5 million to administer the drug tests.

Sources: KSL, ThinkProgress