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Governor Set To Sign Drug Testing Law For Welfare Recipients

By Paul Boger | Published 14 Mar 2014 08:30am | comments
Governor Phil Bryant is set to sign a bill that would require some Mississippians who are recipients of a nutritional assistance program known as TANF to take a drug test. As MPB's Paul Boger reports supporters say the legislation will help those struggling with addiction, while opponents believe it will unfairly single out the poor. 
 
The bill would require those applying for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to undergo drug testing if there’s a suspicion of substance abuse.
 
House Public Health Committee Chairman Sam Mims of McComb says the bill is meant to help the state's neediest.
 
"I think it's a goal that we can improve these people's lives." said Mims. "If they're using drugs then we'll have the ability to get them help, make them better community members, make them better moms and dads and improve their lives. I think this is a good public policy legislation."
 
According to the measure, those filing new TANF applications would only have to take a drug test if answers to a required questionnaire appear suspicious. If the test comes out positive, residents would enter a two-month treatment program paid for by the state. Yet, not everyone buys that explanation. Jennifer Riley-Collins is the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. She says the drug testing is meant to target minorities and the poor. 
 
"If that we're the premise of the law that pwoplw who had drug problems got the drug treatment they needed then the money would be better used creating drug treatment programs.: said Riley-Collins. "Not identifying those already in need of public assistance. That does not further drug treatment in Mississippi.
 
On average there are only 500 new TANF application each year in Mississippi. A similar program was implemented in Utah in 2012, and resulted in 30 people testing positive. 
 

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