NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Michigan To Test Welfare Applicants For Drugs

June 1, 1999

Michigan plans to launch a pilot program in three localities to test welfare applicants for illegal drugs and direct them to treatment. Those already receiving welfare would be tested at random.

While civil liberties groups and some beneficiaries are complaining about the program, other recipients say they see nothing wrong with it.

  • Those who test positive for drug use would be required to get treatment or lose their welfare money.
  • Detroit and another large city, along with a rural area, are likely to be designated pilot locations and the testing would begin in October.
  • Only those under 65 would be tested.
  • Michigan also plans to reduce fraud by taking computerized fingerprint images of those applying for welfare.

Michigan would be the only state with a program of this kind.

Last year, Florida set up a pilot program in two regions which asks drug-use questions of all applicants -- but uses physical drug tests only on those it has reasonable cause to believe use drugs. Louisiana had planned to do tests, but reverted to questionnaires instead -- using testing only in certain cases.

Similarly, New York and Maryland had planned to use tests, but finally opted for screening and questionnaires. New Jersey, Minnesota, South Carolina and Wisconsin randomly test recipients who have felony drug convictions.

Source: Robyn Meredith, "Testing Welfare Applicants for Drugs," New York Times, May 30, 1999.


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