Texas Governor, Rick Perry, has announced that the next State of Texas legislative session will attempt to make drug screening of welfare recipients mandatory in Texas. There is no doubt that drug use can lead to welfare dependency, however I would argue that increasing tax payer financial obligations by mandating drug screening for welfare recipients will have a minimal effect on reducing welfare rolls.
Among the many drug screening methodologies (hair, saliva, blood and optical scanning) available today the nations preferred method of drug screening is done through immunoassay urine analysis (U/A). Urine analysis, while less invasive (doesn’t violate privacy rights) and relatively low cost, is not the most effective process for detecting drug use or abuse.
With the exception of Marijuana, most of America’s drugs of choice are purged from a human body in less than one week (some in days) and false positive/negatives results are common using immunoassays. Confirmation testing (GCMS) the legal standard for urine analysis is 4 to 5 times the cost of an immunoassay and without confirmation testing U/A’s are worthless in court. Hair follicle testing is very expensive and easily defeated through the use of dies and shampoos available at the local smoke shop.
Rarely discussed national parole, probation, and drug court urine analysis statistics prove that most recreational drug use goes undetected by urine analysis. Only heavy persistent drug users are typically detected using U/A regimes. While it may be making drug screening companies rich, urine analysis has proven to be both an unproductive and poor deterrent to drug use. It also warrants mentioning that nicotine (a highly addictive legal drug) is never included in any state ordered drug screen.
If Texas wants to reduce TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) expenditures and blaze a trial for the rest of the nation; Texas legislators should focus on reducing the (non-married) pregnancy rate that creates the need for state aid to families. By definition TANF is designed to give temporary aid to families not individuals. Requiring an adult applying for benefits on behalf of a child to pass a drug screen to qualify for benefits will never reduce the number of applicants for TANF. Reducing the number of children that don’t have a two parent family to support the child’s needs is the only way to reduce penurious groups of entitlement dependents.
I recognize that our recession and unemployment have forced many hard working Americans onto welfare but having children you can’t afford to pay for is becoming endemic in low income American culture. The welfare reform of the 90’s produced short term reductions in welfare recipients, but at some point reductions bottomed out falling short of targets. Decades of “anchor baby” growth led to sympathetic revisions of both state and federal entitlement eligibility guidelines that opened the door to our current low income illegitimate pregnancy trends. If we don’t get a handle on our nation’s illegitimacy rates, we will never corral our runaway welfare and entitlement budgets.
Texas has some of the nation’s toughest requirements and restrictions for TANF application and use. Expansion of the existing Texas TANF model to include personal responsibility provisions that incorporate mandatory birth control use (not abortion), paternity identification, and CPS oversight of welfare families should be given a serious look if the real goal is to reduce the number of needy families. Our nation must realize that the tax payer can no longer afford to subsidize the creation of needy families anymore. It’s time for low income moms and absentee dads to take some responsibility for their existing children’s needs and irresponsible family expansions. If they can’t control the exercising of their reproductive rights the state has an obligation to the taxpayer to help them.
Texas would do well to consider the costs of protracted legal battles over probable cause and privacy rights issues before they require the tax payer to fund another plan to reduce drug use by low income welfare recipients. Perhaps an easier solution would be to put welfare and food stamps recipients under the control of CPS prying eyes while recipients found their way back to financial independence. Not for nothing, but it would sure cut down on the fraud and more than likely discourage bringing children into this world that you can’t afford.
Collecting bodily fluids or resorting to expensive and unproven technologies like optical scanning will only stretch Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s already thin resources to a breaking point. Not to mention that the average welfare office worker isn’t going to slap on the plastic gloves to gladly perform an observed specimen drug screen when required. Are your minds taking all this in yet? In the age of deadly STD’s, sex specific drug screen technicians don’t work cheap and the legal issues surrounding drug screening are more trouble than they are worth.