Welfare Drug Testing Rolls Out in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has taken the first baby step toward its drug testing for welfare recipients program. The program, which passed the Legislature and was signed into law last year, has begun as a pilot program in Schuylkill County and will move throughout the entire state assuming it’s cost effective — which may sound odd assuming you heard about the latest round of state cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett’s address this morning. The Center for Law and Social Policy estimates drug testing the poor will cost between $20,000 and $77,000 per person.

Under the law, the state will test welfare recipients with a drug felony conviction within the last five years and those on probation for drug felonies. The original bill looked to test all recipients of public funds.

When we talked to the original bill’s co-sponsor, State Sen. Richard Alloway last year, he told us, “I’m not all hardcore, you know, ‘Throw them on the streets, they’re no good.’ That’s not who I am. I recognize a drug addiction for what it is. I just want to help people do better in life, get them the job skills they need to make an impact on society … Sure, this bill is carrot and stick, but I want it to be more carrot.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania, who had fought against this bill while in its legislative stage, did not have a comment for PW on what their continued work will consist of.

Similar legislation has been either proposed or passed in about three-dozen states around the country. A Florida bill was blocked by a federal judge as an invasion of privacy and violation of the Fourth Amendment. Pennsylvania’s law takes this into account and is designed to be less invasive than Florida’s version.

15 Responses to “ Welfare Drug Testing Rolls Out in Pennsylvania ”

  1. Don says:

    So what if the drug test comes back positive? The people get dropped off of welfare?

    I understand the premise i suppose, but having starving drug addicts on the streets doesn’t sound like a good compromise.

  2. badd302 says:

    What a freaking joke. People blame every problem society has on drugs and their users, when there are many other things that cause problems, like gambling, sex and other vices and dysfunctions. 80% of the jails are already filled with non violent drug offenders and this has not stopped or even placed a dent in the problem, so how is this urine testing for welfare going to help? Only add more deficit on society, but I guarantee you, it is not going to help. I really do not know what the solution is, but I know this is NOT it. Especially since these urine tests are so inaccurate. You can take an over the counter antihistamine and it will show positive for cocaine and other amphetamines. Remember that poor lady last Christmas (2010) that ate the bagel with poppy seeds on it and had her child taken away because she tested positive for opiates? These tests are horrible and far from accurate. I do not believe in urine tests as unless it is for bona fide medical knowledge, it truly is an invasion of your privacy. When will all this idiocracy end?

  3. [...] Philadelphia Weekly reports, the Center for Law and Social Policy projected that Pennsylvania’s program will cost [...]

  4. Philly RN says:

    Probably these will not be the old urine tests, but the cheek swab method. It is highly accurate and very cheap, as low as $7 per test when done in bulk.

    I question the numbers by the CLSP since the people reviewing the data are likely already going to be DPW employees. There won’t be costs with hiring new staff.

    Then remember the costs savings. A disqualified positive will have to quit drugs to requalify for benefits. The savings potential is enormous.

    As an RN who works in mental health and addictions, I applaud being sure that the state is not paying to fund an addiction, and enabling users to prolong an active addiction and avoid treatment. I have seen numerous examples of this, as many nurses working with a population receiving subsidies can attest.

  5. Mark Burnhauser says:

    Do you think the cost of the testing is more cost effective than to give them the help that they need. I feel it’s a stupid law and we have too many stupid laws that need fixed first.

  6. Jokes says:

    Uhhh, hate to point out how wrong you are, but “Alloway’s Bill”Senate Bill 719 is still in committee. Fact check youself

  7. Randy LoBasso says:

    Jokes: please note the distinction made between this bill and the ‘original bill’ in this blog. Thanks.

  8. Te says:

    I don’t think the state of pa can afford to drug test every individual who have a felony on welfare. Our school systems are failing and we need to be spending the money on our children education. There is already to much spending going into welfare. Besides what about the the individuals who use drugs that don’t have a felony. It’s unjust and morally wrong. It is bad enough that once you do your time when you get released there are several barriers which lead to reoffending. The spending has to stop.

  9. Shawn5996 says:

    I don’t understand. Okay, drug testing is a hot button issue. The main problem is that the proponents are looking to tap into the anti entitlement sentiment and further marginalize a troubled segment of our society. Where is the talk about discouraging people who are already in distress from to using or selling drugs and ultimately forcing themselves down to a point from which they may not return? Drug testing is cheap and accurate, so let’s get that ridiculousness out of the way first. What is the common sense approach for requiring drug testing of welfare recipients and the comprehensive plan to treat the people who test positive? It’s easy for me to say to hell with them, they brought it on themselves,and let them starve. We owe it to each other as people to do better than that. Welfare is a reality, it’s not going away. Tax dollars are going to be spent to support people who do not have jobs. When are we going to change the way it’s administered so that no mistake can be made. Welfare is a temporary program to keep you alive AND give you the tools to get the hell off. That’s the problem. There’s major opposition to providing the necessary tools. Some refer to that as a “Nanny State” mentality. Many of the people receiving benefits were not given the tools they need to move forward, some of them may have found themselves there as a result of their own actions. That can’t matter, they are there and they need and will receive help. It’s up to us whether that help is in the form of a simple handout, or the tools it takes to be productive. One way costs money and has little potential for returns with regard to minimizing future dependence. The other way also costs money but is driven by compassionate people acknowledging that some of our fellow Philadelphians never learned what we see as the simplest life lessons. We cannot let them starve, the choice is who is going to be feeding them, and their children, and children’s children for years to come, us, in the form of future handouts, or them with the skills that we helped teach. We have to instill in as many at risk people as possible that welfare is not a way of life, it’s a way to a productive life, and once you’re gone you should have a healthy fear of failure that keeps you from coming back. This whole initiative must be in conjunction with a crackdown on violent criminals to remove destructive influences and release communities from their grip. It must also coincide with an overhaul of the education system that focuses on real world skills and cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual. You can’t do much cultivating for a child who has to walk home through his neighborhood beset upon from all sides by bad influences to come home to a single mother who has always been given a handout but never given a fighting chance. This sounds like pie in the sky but it’s really not. It’s a change in the approach and the mindset. If everyone in this society was given a fair chance and the basic tools, opportunities outnumbered citizens, and people still chose a handout over making their own way, I would say let everyone but the innocents starve, literally, like in the streets. Basically saying fuck you to anyone who has a nice fertile field but chooses to have food handed to him instead of tending to his own land is fine with me. That’s not reality. Let’s acknowledge that it’s not our fault that some people don’t raise their kids right, but without lending a true helping hand to break the cycle, we’re going to end up raising their kids anyway, with tax dollars for three hots and a cot.

  10. I work for my money you should too says:

    I am for drug testing of welfare recipients. Many employers drug test for employment, I took a drug test for my job. So you all who are against this bill are telling me it is ok for me to take a drug test for a job that I will bust my ass for my money and pay into the system for people to get welfare for free and not have to take a drug test? I dont think so. You have me having to decide to buy formula for my kid or put gas in my car to get to work, standing in line at Walmart to see a woman and man with 5 kids, all of whom are dressed in designer clothes, with a kart full of food. Out they whip the access card. Should I have asked if they would pay for my can of formula so I can put gas in my car to bust my hump at work to feed thier kids too? Maybe I should have. But it gets better. That same family, dad pulls out a wad of cash from his pocket, all $20’s he can barely fit his hand around to pay for something after their grocery transaction. What the hell? Where did that come from? After I pay for my kids formula and debate who I can borrow money off of to get to work, I walk out to my car to pass the same family loading their Cadillac Escalade! Hell I guess I am the dumb one here, dont do drugs, bust my ass at work and not have money, or do drugs so I cant pass a piss test to get a job, go on welfare and live the dream. To me the situation is fucked up and tell me that wouldnt piss YOU off? If you say it doesn’t your a damn lier.

  11. DonRompson says:

    Fuck them all, if they are on drugs and receiving money for free let them fucking starve.

  12. DonRompson says:

    Taxpayer money goes to:

    1.) Weed
    2.) Tattos
    3.) Liquor
    4.) True religions

  13. Joe Pino says:

    Are you people nuts? From what I am reading you say its ok to sell and do drugs than collect welfare?

    Maybe I should leave my job drink 40’s get high and run ball all day than sell the pills I get from the doctor and food stamps than go get checked out.

    If that sound good than congratulations you are now a c r a c k h e a d

    Get a job

  14. Jess M says:

    i do not agree with the urine testing at all. its a waste of tax payers money. they have other things that need their money rather then urines for the poor. after reading everything that everbody had to say about this situation i fell like the people who posted those things, really need to look in the mirror and realize that not everyone on welfare are drug addicts or what ever. im a single mother of two and i just lost my house about a year ago and havent been able to get back on my feet yet. but you guys are saying to starve the kids if their parents are using, thats ridculous and just straight up heartless. i do have a history with drugs but have been clean for four years. the thing im worried about is if someone relapses what will happen, will they give them a certain amount of time to get a clean urine or are they just shutting off their welfare right away. people make mistakes but if that mistake keeps happening repeditively then yeah take the benifits away but if its a one time mistake then i dont think they should take it away yet, give them a chance to clean them selves up then if they dont stop then take away their benifits. but if they dont give them a chance to straighten up first they are just being heartless. and they have programs that u go to to find jobs im in one right now trying to find a job but the economy is horrible right now and everyoes looking for a job so they go quick. people dont ask to be on welfare, they dont want to depend on the state for their income but sometime they just have to. if they didnt have welfare me and my kids would be literally DEAD.

  15. Matt says:

    Get a job, dont use drugs, its simple. Welfare was created to help those who cant find a job not for those who dont want a job! If you have a history of drug abuse and dont want to get a job and want the system to support your sorry ass DONT RELAPSE, PERIOD! If the drugs arent worth starving for dont fuckin use them!

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