The problem of a drug testing of welfare recipients has sparked a public outcry. The question whether welfare recipients should be drug tested or not has its own supporters and detractors. The arguments of those who think that drug testing is necessary are obvious. It is believed that the government, by refusing from the financial aid to welfare recipients who fail the test, saves public funds.
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Moreover, when this legislative intention was just implemented, Senator David Vitter stated that in such a way the government was planning to find out and to control the drug edicts in families that need government assist (Bennet 9).
Many opponents of the drug testing state that this statement implies the fact that the drug edicts are more numerous among welfare recipients in comparison with the rest population. Moreover, in a certain degree Vitters statement may be considered as an intrusion into privacy. However, apart from the moral aspects of this problem, the drug testing of welfare recipients has many other negative factors.
Speaking about the financial benefits of this issue, the advocates of the drug testing state that every dollar of taxpayers should be spend properly. It is believed that due to this measure implementation, the funds are distributed in a proper way and only those families who need it receive the government assistance.
At the same time, it is believed that drug edicts are rejected from this assistance and in such a way, the economy of taxpayers money takes place. Stating this, the advocates of the drug testing do not take into consideration the cost of all the necessary procedures of the drug screening.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the estimate cost of drug testing depends upon the State and averages 31 dollars (Ingersoll, Pfister and Arrington 5). From the very beginning of the implementation of this legislative intention, it was predetermined that this procedure would be free of charge. At the same time, the drug testing implies not only the procedure of screening, but also a complex of different activities.
It is necessity to purchase and to deliver the drug tests, which means additional logistical expenses. It is necessary to pay laboratory tariffs, and to pay wages to the staff that is involved in servicing, monitoring and administrating the drug testing (Radel, Joyce and Wulff 3). Moreover, these are not all the expenses.
Considering this, in some states such as Florida or Alabama, an applicant has to pay independently for the drug test. In case a recipient fails the test, he loses his money spent for it. Nevertheless, in case of the negative result of the drug test the charges of the applicant are reimbursed.
In this regard, the brightest example that demonstrates the senseless of this policy, from the point of view of the cost saving, is a trial-run performed in Florida. During this testing program, according to the demands of the authorities of Florida, every welfare recipient had to pay for his or her drug test.
Taking into account the data of this experiment Alvarez states that among all the participants only 2.6% of applicants have failed the test (2). In such a way, practically all the charges have been compensated from the local budget. The example of Florida is the clear evidence of the pointless of this approach.
The same tendency may be observed practically in every state where this procedure has been implemented. “The drug-testing regimes in the seven states all differ slightly, but the lack of effectiveness is widespread” (Covert and Israel par.9).
According to the statistic data, the drug testing comes at a high cost to a local budget. For instance, in 2014 in Missouri among 38970 applicants only 48 failed the drug test. (Covert and Israel par.10). It has been calculated that the next three years the budget of the state will lose approximately 1.35 million US dollars due to the implementation of this program.
It should be also admitted that the procedure of drug testing is different in various state. The laws that suggest its implementation may be subdivided into two groups. The first category implies that all welfare applicants should be drug tested. According to the second group, only suspected individuals should undergo this procedure. It should be noted that this approach is even more useless than the first one. The typical example of it is Arizona.
In 2009 in Arizona there has been adopted the law with a requirement: “to screen and test each adult recipient who is otherwise eligible for temporary assistance for needy families cash benefits and who the department has reasonable cause to believe engages in the illegal use of controlled substances” (Covert and Israel par.23). In such a way, it means that if a person fails the drug test he will be refused from receiving a welfare during the next year. It has been calculated that the implementation of this law will save 1.7 million US dollars for the local budget every year.
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Nevertheless, recent events have shown the falseness of such a solution. In 2010 “very few people have actually even been referred for drug testing after completing a written drug use statement” (Covert and Israel par.24).
The department in Arizona, which is responsible for the realization of this program, has checked all welfare recipients and among 140000 people, only 42 have been suspected in drug abuse. Among this group of suspected persons, only 19 have agreed to undergo the drug test and only three have failed it. The drug testing of 19 person have cost more than 500 US dollars.
Moreover, many health professionals also point out the senselessness of the drug testing. The Department of Health and Human Services has published a report with the results of the investigation of this problem. Apart from everything else it has been mentioned that: “Drug tests detect recent drug use, but provide no information about frequency of use, impairment, or treatment needs.” (Carley 2).
In such a way, it is possible to detect a drug addicted person only within several days after a drug use. Those people who take drugs occasionally can successfully undergo a drug test without revealing an addiction to drugs.
Apart from the financial disadvantages, the drug testing of welfare recipients may be considered as rude violation of law. The fourth amendment of the Constitution of the USA states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” (Newell 219). It may be interpreted that every citizen is protected by the government from “the unreasonable searches and seizures” (Carpenter 2).
It means that the government has no right to interfere in a private life of a person and to search a person without a reasonable cause. In spite of the fact that the Supreme Court states that “the government-administered drug tests are searches under the Fourth Amendment” (Carpenter 2), this question is still rather disputable. It may be said that the legitimacy of the drug test for welfare recipients depends on the question whether the reason of this test is reasonable or not.
Moreover, the demand for the drug testing of a person who wants to receive a governmental aid contradicts the Declaration of Independence, which states that all people are created equal. By forcing on a group of citizens to pass through the drug testing, while for all the rest it is not necessary, the government violates this principle and in such a way emphasizes the inequality of society.
In such a way, it is understood that those people who need government assistance are inclined to a drug use, while the rest of the population are not. At the same time, this statement is unfair. The percentage of drug abusers among welfare recipients is practically equal to the percentage of drug addicts among the general population.
The report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that “between 5.0% and 10.0% of welfare recipients abuse illegal drugs” (Carley 3). Most studies in this sphere have found that practically the same proportion may be observed among the rest of the citizens.
Moreover, there is also a moral aspect of this problem. It is easy to imagine the situation when a problem family with moderate means depends upon its one member who is a welfare recipient. In case he fails the drug test because of his drug addiction, all the members of the family including children will suffer from it. Moreover, a drug addicted person needs assistance. It goes without saying that there is no sense for a drug addicted person to undergo the procedure of drug testing.
He understands that one way or another his drug dependence will be revealed and he will not receive a welfare. “It may make drug users less willing to disclose and therefore keep them from connecting with treatment” (Covert and Israel par.6). But in such a case a person stays alone with his problems. From the point of view of morality, it is necessary to support this person preventing him from doing unpredictable actions. Moreover, on a global scale drug addiction comes at a high cost to society.
“Numerous states, including Texas, have come to the conclusion that it is cheaper to treat addicts than it is to lock them up” (Walters par.3). But without this problem recognition there will be no a solution to it. Moreover, even for those people who are not addicted to drugs this procedure “can increase the shame people feel around applying for welfare benefits in the first place, which could drive them away from getting assistance they may need to get by” (Covert and Israel par.6).
All the researches in this sphere and the experience have shown the senselessness of this program. The drug testing of welfare recipients is pointless from the point of view of economic benefits for the budget. Moreover, it contradicts to the fourth amendment of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This procedure is also unjust from the point of view of morality.
Alvarez, Lizette. No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests. 2012. Web.
Bennet, Erica. Should Welfare Recipients Be Drug Tested? 2013. Web.
Carley, Frances. Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: A Review of Potential Costs and Savings. 2012. Web.
Carpenter, David. Constitutional Analysis of Suspicionless Drug Testing Requirements for the Requirements of Governmental Benefits. 2015. Web.
Covert, Bryce and Josh Israel. What 7 States Discovered After Spending More Than $1 Million Drug Testing Welfare Recipients. 2015. Web.
Ingersoll, Nick, Abigail Pfister and Hannah Arrington. Drug Testing of Welfare Applicants and Recipients. 2013. Web.
Newell, Walker. “Tax Dollars Earmarked For Drugs? The Policy and Constitutionality of Drug Testing Welfare Recipients.” Columbia Human Rights Law Review. 43.215 (2011). 215-254. Web.
Radel, Laura, Kristen Joyce and Carli Wulff. Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: Recent Proposals and Continuing Controversies. 2011. Web.
Walters, Jonathan. Should Welfare Recipients Be Drug Tested? 2012. Web.