Lawmakers stand by drug testing for welfare recipients, even at $2.2 million price tag

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 16, 2015) - Indiana welfare recipients could soon be required to take a drug test. One lawmaker proposed the requirement this week as an effort to stem the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana.

State Representative Terry Goodin (D – Austin) is the author of the bill that would require men and women on welfare to be drug tested. He’s also a democrat from Scott County where there are now more than 100 confirmed HIV cases, almost all of which are linked to intravenous drug use.

“What this attempt was to try and reach in and help people. A lot of folks are trying to characterize this as some kind of punishment and that’s not at all what it is,” said Goodin.

Goodin is still very much behind his bill to require Indiana welfare recipients be drug tested. He’d hoped the requirement would stop the spread of HIV in his district.

“The most important thing this has done is this has brought out the conversation because there’s been this urban myth out there, this urban legend that these welfare folks, all they do is take our money and spend it on drugs. Well what this is showing us is this is not necessarily the case,” he said.

But according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, only nine adults without children in Scott County are on welfare; and with a high drug testing program price tag, some are saying, it isn’t worth it.

“The cost of a drug testing program is about $2.2 million. When you look at the data, there’s just simply not any higher incidence of drug use among TANIF recipients than there is in the general community," said David Sklar, the Vice President of the Indiana Coalition for Human Services.

“We would much rather spend that money on things that will help those individuals become economically self-sufficient, like child care, or job training, or counseling services,” said Sklar.

Requiring a drug test for welfare recipients has been tried three other times in Indiana.  None of those bills became law. But Goodin insists his proposal is different; it would not take those who test positive off of welfare, instead it would provide counseling and drug rehab programs.

“In no way shape or form does it impact anyone on disability, it does not impact anybody that’s over 65 years old, and it does not impact anybody that’s a child, no children at all are impacted by this amendment,” he said.

But now it’s in the hands of the Indiana senate, where it’s getting mixed reviews.

“I’m not bothered by it. You do that when you’re employed, you get a job, but some other people are and I recognize there’s a split of opinion on it,” said Senate President Pro Tem, David Long (R – Fort Wayne).

A dozen other, more conservative-leaning states have a similar drug-testing welfare requirement.