Michigan moving closer to drug testing welfare recipients

May 7, 2013

We've been following a bill that's now working its way through the State Legislature.

The House has already said "yes" and passed it. Now it's on to the Senate.

In short: the legislation would require people getting welfare to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits.

The substance abuse screening would be required if there's "reasonable suspicion" that the person is using illegal drugs.

Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) sponsored the bill in the House saying the government should not pay for people's drug habits.

"People are tired of applicants getting welfare payments when they're using them for illegal drug use," said Farrington. "We want to make sure that they get on the right track, they receive their treatment going forward and they get on the right path to success."

Supporters of the bill say only people who test positive would have to pay for the cost of the drug test.

Critics say suspicion-based drug testing demonizes the poor and unfairly hurts children of addicts.

Melissa Smith is a senior policy analyst with the Michigan League for Human Services. She researched the effectiveness of these welfare drug testing programs and she joins us now from Lansing.

She analyzed how "suspicion-based drug testing" is working in other states and shares what she found with us.

What she found?

A lot of money is wasted on these programs and not a lot is accomplished.

Listen to the full-interview above.