Pubdate: Sun, 20 Feb 2011
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2011 Chillicothe Gazette
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


With many social service programs, most taxpayers want to make sure 
of two things -- that the truly needy get the assistance and that no 
tax money goes to something outside of what it should.

But there's growing concern that state assistance payments are being 
used to fund illegal drug habits.

Enter State Sen. Tim Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican who represents 
part of Pickaway County. He again has proposed requiring a drug test 
for anyone seeking cash, medical, housing, food or energy assistance 
from the state of Ohio before they can receive any help. The bill 
excludes unemployment compensation from the testing requirement.

"I've got a lot of people -- from police agencies, courts and human 
service agencies -- saying there are a lot of people out there 
needing assistance," Schaffer told "But some are not 
getting shoes on their feet, food on their tables or shirts on their 
backs because the money is being hijacked to feed drug addictions."

It's a controversial move, but one that has some merit.

On the surface, making sure that taxpayer money isn't unwittingly 
used to fund illegal activity is a good idea, and if a failed test 
helps someone recognize an addiction, get clean and start a new, 
drug-free life, that's a good thing.

But the devil usually is is in the details, and that's where concern 
begins with Schaffer's proposal.

While many details should be ferreted out in the discussion phase as 
the bill works its way through the legislative process, there are key 
concerns that need to be addressed.

Drug tests cost money -- $15 to $20 per person in this case -- and 
there's no statement about where the money to do these tests will come from.

There is also a major concern with what happens when someone does 
test positive. Does law enforcement get involved at that point? Will 
it remain confidential information in the Jobs and Family Services 
file? If so, how many positive tests would be allowed before law 
enforcement becomes involved?

Will this idea have the unintended consequence of further burdening 
an overburdened children's services system with more children taken 
from parents who test positive.

Personal responsibility should be the end result of the social 
services system in Ohio. No one should be on public assistance in 
perpetuity, and eliminating abuse of the system must be a goal.

Removing people from their addictions is a key component of this idea 
and worth lauding, but with any good idea comes questions that must 
be answered. Schaffer's proposal is a good one to get the dialogue 
going, but we're a long way from the final form.

(Information from was used in this editorial.)
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