Tennessee Drug Tests Welfare Applicants, Discovers Less Than One Percent Use Drugs

In July, Tennessee began a drug testing program for applicants to the state’s welfare program. Since then, just one person has tested positive out of more than 800.

Applicants have to answer three questions about drug use to get benefits, and if they answer yes to any of them, they get referred to urine testing. If the result is positive, they have to complete a treatment plan and then take another test. If the second comes back positive, they get cut off from benefits for six months. Those who refuse to take a drug test in the first place can’t get benefits.

In the month since it began, six people submitted to a drug test and just one tested positive out of the 812 people who applied. Four were turned down for benefits because they refused to participate in drug screening. That means a positive rate of 0.12 percent for those who took part in the screening. That compares to the 8 percent of state residents generally who use illegal drugs.

Despite stereotypes that the poor people who need welfare assistance use drugs at a high rate, other states have had similar results. In Utah, just 12 people tested positive in a year of drug testing applicants. In Florida, 2 percent of applicants failed the tests in 2011 but the state has an 8 percent rate of illegal drug use.

– Read the entire article at Think Progress.

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