Indiana House okays drug testing of welfare recipients


A controversial and potentially costly move by the state legislature could require thousands of Hoosiers receiving welfare to undergo drug tests.

The proposal to require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to take written drug tests passed in the House with an overwhelming majority on Monday. The vote was 78-17.

See the full text of the bill here

"I have a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves?" read TANF recipient Katrina Paggett.

"Are they serious?" laughed Paggett as she read the questions on a substance abuse subtle screening inventory.

Yes they are. By "they," Paggett was talking about the state.

"True or false? Most people would lie to get what they want?" continued Paggett, reading another question on the inventory that claims a 94 percent success rate in predicting a person's chances of using drugs.

Paggett may soon have to answer such questions if she wants to continue receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

"The impetus of this bill is to identify folks who have a problem and help them," explained Republican Representative Jud McMillin.

The test is part of a proposal authored by McMillin to make sure people who get money from the state aren't using it to buy drugs.

Government assistance recipients would take a written test first. If the test indicated likely drug use, they could be chosen for a monthly random drug test.

"If you get tested and you're clean, then you won't be retested," said McMillin.

A positive test from the random drug test would mean a treatment program or your losing the ability to receive help from the state.

"If you have money for drugs, you probably wouldn't need money from the government," said Paggett, who said she was in favor of the move.

Testing would cost the state a half-million dollars. But supporters say overall, the state would save $1.5 million in aid they would withhold from drug users.

"Merely showing a propensity for an addictive personality on a test should not be deemed to be cause for anything," argued Ken Falk with the ACLU.

Falk said the proposal violates the Constitution.

"I think somehow when we do stuff to poor people, we take a pass on basic constitutional rights," said Falk.

"I wouldn't know how to answer these," admitted Paggett when she looked at the test questions.

But answer she would, said Paggett. If those answers somehow led to a drug test, Paggett said she would also take that willingly.

"If you ain't got nothing to hide, why is it going to be such a bother?," said Paggett. "It's the same thing like, you know, if you go in for a job interview, if they require a drug test, or a background check, that's what you gotta do to get the job."

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