It’s Poor Policy to Test Drug Welfare Recipients

In a letter to USA TODAY, Dr. Peter Provet urges lawmakers to reconsider legislation requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests and calling instead for greater treatment and prevention funding.

It’s poor public policy to test welfare recipients for drugs

USA TODAY’s article “States consider drug testing welfare recipients” prompts the question: Why stop at poor people who receive public benefits? For example, why not test all students in state-funded schools and mothers who give birth in publicly funded hospitals?

In Arizona and Missouri, an individual is tested if there is reason to believe he or she is a substance abuser. The legislation proposed in Colorado would test all applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This stigmatizes poor families and is ultimately a losing battle. Money should be dedicated to more prevention, education, treatment, and broad public-relations campaigns that extol the benefits of a wellness lifestyle and drug-free life.

Testing might seem like an easy and convenient solution. But it is often counterproductive, expensive and a poor substitute for sound public policy.

Peter Provet, president & CEO; Odyssey House; New York City
Odyssey House is a non-profit social services organization.