Few Welfare Recipients in Tennessee Test Positive for Drugs

A year after Tennessee began its welfare drug-testing program, only 55 recipients tested positive for drugs, according to the state’s Department of Human Services. The results are similar to those of other states that have implemented drug-testing programs for people receiving government benefits, according to The Huffington Post.

Of 28,559 people in Tennessee who applied for benefits during the one-year period ending in July, 468 were tested for drugs because their answers on a questionnaire suggested they might be using drugs. Of that group, only 55 tested positive. They can continue to receive benefits if they enroll in treatment. If they don’t receive treatment, the state can appoint a “protective payee” to allow their children to get benefits.

Although states that require drug screening and testing for government benefits recipients report low rates of positive drug tests, the policy remains popular among politicians, the article notes.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 13 states have passed legislation regarding drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah). Some apply to all applicants, while others state that screening or testing apply only if there is a reason to believe the person is engaging in illegal drug activity or has a substance use disorder.

Florida’s law was halted by a district judge. The court ruled the law was an “unreasonable search.”

As of July 2015, at least 18 states have proposed legislation requiring some form of drug testing or screening for public assistance recipients this year.

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