As discussion continues among Kentucky lawmakers over whether public-assistance recipients should undergo mandatory drug testing, an Idaho study has concluded such an undertaking is not cost-effective.
"The costs of legal action alone during the first year could exceed the costs of the drug testing and treatment program," says the study, as reported by The Associated Press. "To fund the costs of the program, (Idaho) would need to either appropriate additional funding for a drug-testing program, or divert funds from current programs for the screening, testing and treatment activities."
The study was conducted by Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare. It found that testing for federal welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps is forbidden. For child-care assistance and temporary cash assistance for families, programs that cover about 10,500 Idahoans, the study showed the "costs of testing and related treatment would wipe out prospective savings achieved by removing offenders."
On Jan. 7, state Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, filed House Bill 208, which would requie random drug and urine testing for any Kentucky resident over 17 who gets Medicaid, food stamps or welfare benefits. Those failing the test would lose their benefits until they passed drug testing at a later date. The cost of the proposal was unknown, though Napier, right, said there are more than 600,000 Kentucky adults on welfare, and a drug test costs about $30. Those numbers result in a $18 million price tag, plus the costs of expanding drug treatment programs.
The House's Health and Welfare Committee has had the bill since Feb. 1 and does not appear likely to approve it.
Missouri, Virginia and Nebraska legislators are considering similar proposals. New Mexico lawmakers are debating whether to test for drugs as a condition to receive unemployment benefits. Minnesota and Wisconsin test convicted felons who receive some form of public assistance. Arizona "requires about 12,500 people in one federal program to complete a drug-screening questionnaire, with some then undergoing drug screens," AP reports.
The proposals have not been met without controversy. In 1999, Michigan's effort to drug test members of needy families who received temporary federal assistance lasted just five weeks before it was ruled unconstitutional, AP reports. (Read more)