Former drug czar: Florida welfare drug testing policy is misguided
Former White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey thinks that Florida’s new policy of drug testing anyone who applies for temporary government assistance is counterproductive.
“What kind of sense does that make?” he said, according to WCTV. “You’ve got to make the barriers to entering rehabilitation low. You want people in treatment.”
He was speaking to a crowd of former and recovering addicts near Pensacola.
Under the law, signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) in May, applicants for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program must take a drug test at their own personal expense. The program is meant to aid poor families so that children can be cared for in their own homes and prepare parents for work.
Those who test positive for illegal drug use won’t be eligible to receive benefits for one year or until they successfully complete a drug abuse program. Those who don’t test positive will be reimbursed for the cost of the test.
The ACLU has sued the state of Florida on behalf of 35-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Luis Lebron, a single parent who lost his job in 2008 after his employer downsized.
Lebron says he does not take illegal drugs but contacted the ACLU because “it really hit hard when I had to go down there and go through this.”
The exact number of tests taken and their result is still being tabulated by the Department of Children and Families, but Tampa Bay Online reported that at least 1,000 tests had been taken for welfare applications between mid-July and mid-August.
Ninety-six percent of the tests were clean, 2 percent didn’t complete the application process for unspecified reasons and only 2 percent of the applicants tested positive for drug use.
Using the estimation of 1,000 tests, that means only 20 people failed their tests. The 960 people whose tests were clean represent $28,800 in reimbursements from the state, along with the cost of the welfare benefits they were paid — an average of $134 per month.
With prior reporting by Kase Wickman