WSW: Pilot Program Comes Up Empty Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Jun 30, 2016

State Capitol - file photo
Credit Kevin Lavery, WKAR

The CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy says when lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder approved a pilot program to test some welfare recipients for drugs, the created a “solution in search of a problem.” 

The program specifically calls for testing anyone suspected of using drugs. The pilot program was launched in three counties, including Allegan. But the Guardian reported last week that so far there have been no positive results from more than 300 people tested for drugs.

Michigan League for Public Policy CEO Gilda Jacobs says “This does not surprise me at all.” She says people on cash assistance are not likely than the general population to use drugs. Jacobs, a former state lawmaker, says legislation and policy gets crafted by stereotypes about people who are low-income. She says the state should spend its time on policies that help improve people’s lives.

The results in Michigan are similar to those in other states that have tried drug testing welfare recipients. Jacobs says they have spent a lot of money and not found very many people using drugs.

When Governor Rick Snyder signed the legislation to start the pilot program in 2014, he said it should be used to help people get treatment for substance abuse. Jacobs says the drug epidemic is a problem, but not just for people who are poor. She says the state should make sure that there are treatment programs available. But Jacobs says a broader approach should be taken to address drug abuse in general.

Asked if a testing program could discourage people from using drugs, Jacobs says it’s possible, but hard to know. But she says the point of the program is to hold people accountable if they receive public assistance. Jacobs says that could extend to government employees, including lawmakers, or anyone who gets any sort of assistance from the government.

Jacobs says it’s important for lawmakers to use data in making decisions. She says right now the data shows that the program to drug test welfare recipients isn’t working.

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