Tennessee Officials Study Drug-Testing Programs for Welfare Recipients in Other States

Tennessee state officials are studying drug-testing programs for welfare recipients in six other states, as they shape their own program, The Tennessean reports.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a law that mandates drug testing for welfare recipients. The state’s Department of Human Services has until January 2014 to finalize a plan. Department Commissioner Raquel Hatter reported to two legislative committees that her agency is studying similar programs in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah, to gain insight into how they have implemented their policy, and any obstacles they have faced.

The Tennessee law requires drug testing for any welfare applicant with a prior drug conviction or anyone who raises suspicion based on a screening. Human services officials must consult with drug treatment experts to set up a screening program to establish reasonable cause for drug testing of welfare applicants.

Arizona’s program, in place since 2009, requires adult applicants to fill out a three-question statement on illegal drug use. They must submit to drug testing if their answers provide a reasonable cause. In Florida, 108 adults out of 4,000 applying for welfare benefits who took a drug test failed. Florida’s law has been challenged in federal court.

Georgia has passed a drug-testing law for welfare recipients, but put implementation on hold until the Florida case has been resolved, the article notes.

Under all six state laws, a person who fails a drug test is ineligible for benefits for a defined period of time, between one month and three years. In most of the states there is a provision that reduces that period if the person enters a drug rehabilitation program, according to the newspaper.

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