A proposal requiring welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing was added to an Indiana Senate Bill earlier in April. The bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate.
Senate Bill 465 was designed to make changes to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, and the Republican-controlled House voted 79-15 to add the drug testing provision. Democratic state Representative Terry Goodin originally proposed the provision due to his concern about the rapidly spreading HIV outbreak caused by drug use and needle sharing in his county.
“Tough times call for drastic measures,” said Goodin to WLFI. “This is a response to a lot of constituents calling me and asking me if there was a way we could try to figure out an issue to try to help folks get off of drugs.”
Indiana Republicans unsuccessfully pushed a similar bill that was also supported by Goodin in 2014.
Under the new bill, welfare recipients considered at high risk of drug abuse or who had been charged with a drug-related crime would have to take random drug tests. If they failed, they would have the opportunity to get counseling. If they failed another drug test after counseling, they would ineligible to receive welfare benefits for three months. Recipients would also be financially responsible for positive drugs tests. Children of welfare recipients would still be able to receive benefits, but they would have to do so through another benefactor.
Goodin has stated that his intention with the proposal was to help individuals and families with drug problems. However, after learning about the bill’s limited reach—only about 3,800 people would be eligible for drug testing—Goodin withdrew his support from the bill.
“The amendment was filed with full intention to help people,” said Goodin.“…I think there’s some folks out there who are on drugs who don’t want help, but I think a large portion of those folks who are addicted to drugs really do want to get help. They’ve just got to have the right partnership to help them do that.”
Goodwin asked the original authors of the bill to form a study committee and outreach program to find other methods of combating drug abuse. The committee is expected to begin developing the outreach program this summer and the outreach program will be available to welfare recipients, according to Goodin.