Texas Plan to Test Welfare Applicants for Drugs Would Hurt Children, Critics Say

A plan that would require applicants for welfare and unemployment benefits in Texas to be tested for drugs would hurt children, critics argue. The plan is backed by Governor Rick Perry.

Under the proposed plan, only applicants considered to be at high risk for drug use would be tested. Those who failed the drug test and lost benefits could reapply in six months if they underwent drug treatment, the Houston Chronicle reports. Those who did not undergo treatment could reapply for benefits in a year.

State Representative Sylvester Turner said the proposal singles out the poor and jobless. “Let’s say you may have a mom or father who’s taking care of the children who may be on drugs. In order to get the adult, you are going to penalize the children? What are you going to do then? What about the children?” he asked.

State Senator Judith Zaffirini said the proposal would have unintended consequences. “If a parent is addicted to drugs, then that problem should be dealt with, and a child should not be left hungry and not caused to face health risks because of the misbehavior of a parent,” she told the newspaper.

Supporters of the measure say children of people who use drugs are already suffering, and testing could deter their parents from drug abuse. They add the proposal could serve as an incentive for treatment, and improve the chances for employment and self sufficiency.

A Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing was halted last year after the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state to stop it. About 2.5 percent of the 4,000 adults tested before the program was stopped tested positive for drugs. Almost 2,500 people refused to take the drug test.

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    James Page

    December 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    2,500 refused to test, which severly effects the %. 2,500 is greater then half of the 4,000 that were tested, of which 2.5% failed. Also there are other factors not taken into consideration such as the 1/2 life of drugs. What % of these parents are testing positive for Amphetamines, Heroin, Marijuana are these tests sophisticated enough to catch drugs like 2c1 or bath salts.. I would assume the greater perentage is marijuana user just based on half life and saturation. If states like Wash, Col, are legalizing marijuana for everyone (welfare recipients included) then is it right to take food from the tables of these parents for the same thing in another state.
    Addiction is widely defined as a disease, BIO/Pysch/Soc disorder that generally is more prevelent and less treatable in poverty stricken locations. To the people that reference themselves in these laws while they are not “addicts/alcoholics” is comparable to me a non-diabetic referencing the ways I conduct my grocery shopping, dieting and other lifestyle choices in comparison to a type-2 diabetic. Spending More money on systems that are designed to “fight drug abuse” is futile and an enormous waste of resource. We should admit drug use will be likely a ongoing malignancy and develope and improve our existing ways of treatment not battle.

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    December 1, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I agree with other comments that children of actively drug-using parents suffer when the monthly check (intended for food, clothing, and shelter) is diverted to the drug dealer and when parents are intoxicated or sick from withdrawal and not able to attend to their children, or worse, actively abusing them.

    Potential loss of income could be a powerful incentive for recovery from addiction, if there is a connection with addiction treatment and if the punishments for drug use and the rewards of sobriety are immediate and consistent.

    This is an evidence-based best practice in addiction treatment known as “contingency management”. It is successfully employed in workplace monitoring programs, physician and nurse health programs, and drug and alcohol courts with excellent outcomes. To do it well takes resources- frequent monitoring of drug use, access to treatment, and a swift response to positive drug screens. When done on the cheap- as in predictable monthly testing associated with probation or parole visits- it’s not so effective.

    It is not clear that this Texas law includes the wrap around services and frequent monitoring needed to insure a successful path to recovery and out of poverty.

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