Society

The Results From Michigan's Welfare Drug Testing Are In

| by Robert Fowler

Michigan has concluded its drug testing pilot program for state welfare recipients and turned up zero narcotics users, with only one recipient identified for a test that was deferred for unspecified reasons.

In December 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill that called for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to initiate a pilot program to test welfare recipients for substance abuse, according to MLive.

The project was conducted between October 2015 and September 2016, targeting three separate counties with a total of 443 residents who were receiving or had applied for welfare cash assistance.

The Michigan DHHS report found that only 27 welfare recipients in those counties were identified as possible narcotics users, 10 of them already receiving treatment for substance abuse. Three of the possible drug test recipients had their cases closed for unspecified reasons and 14 were screened, reports MLive.

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Only one welfare recipient was identified as a potential substance abuser and had consented to a drug test, but their case was ultimately closed for "an unrelated reason prior to the submission of the test."

The 2014 law had stipulated that welfare recipients who tested positive for substance abuse would not lose their benefits but instead receive treatment under Medicaid. Michigan DHHS Communications Manager Bob Wheaton stresses that the project was not designed to simply cut off welfare recipients who are addicted to drugs.

"Our primary motivation for doing this is to help people who do have issues, so they can find employment," Wheaton told The Huffington Post. "If we've found someone has an issue and needs to undergo treatment, it's because drug use could be a barrier to future job opportunities that would help a recipient stop relying on benefits."

The Michigan DHHS pilot program cost $700, in addition to the cost of "increased staffing, administrative costs, administrative hearings, and program changes to the electronic benefits application system Bridges."

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After the pilot program found no drug users, it is not clear whether Michigan will continue drug testing welfare recipients.

Several other states have engaged in drug testing programs for welfare recipients, reports ThinkProgress.

A Missouri drug testing program in 2014 cost over $300,000 but only resulted in 48 positive drug tests. An Oklahoma program from 2012 through 2014 of similar cost turned up 297 positive drug tests, while a Utah program during the same timeframe that cost over $60,000 only turned up 29. Similar projects in Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee had similar costs and tu also turned up paltry results.

Sources: The Huffington PostMLive, ThinkProgress / Photo credit: Micah Baldwin/Flickr

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