Drug Tests for Food Stamps?

It hit Facebook that Kentucky has passed a law requiring random drug tests for food stamp and Medicaid recipients.  Can’t pass the test? Can’t get benefits.

That is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

Kentucky HB 208 hasn’t passed, but it has been submitted and has the backing of the Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo. (Here’s a link to the text of Kentucky HB 208)

The news article I read revealed a stunning disconnect from reality.  The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ronnie Napier, says:

“I’m not a hard-hearted guy,” said Napier. “I believe there is a need for public assistance for those who need it, but I understand some are using these funds to buy drugs.”

Napier said the goal “is to get people off drugs.”

“Most employers require it for their workers,” he said of drug testing. “We need to do the same for those getting assistance through the state.”

…Instead of harming children, Napier said, the proposal would help protect kids from parents who abuse drugs. “Who would want their children raised in an environment where money is being used for drugs instead of groceries?” he asked.

Really?  Does he think that parents just don’t realize they have a substance abuse problem, and then when they don’t pass a drug test they’ll suddenly have a revelation about their parenting skills?  That a mother with a meth addiction will see the light and realize that she doesn’t want her children raised where drugs are more important than groceries, that a mother with a cocaine habit can even think rationally about anyone or anything besides getting her next hit?

The bill states that adult recipients will have to undergo a blood or urine test when they first get assistance, and then each year thereafter, assigned randomly.

There is no help for any of the people who might fail.  Currently Medicaid only covers substance abuse treatment for children or pregnant women- and a failed test cancels Medicaid.  So essentially, if a mother is a drug user and on welfare, there is no outside help for her at all.  She’s expected to suddenly and swiftly end all drug use immediately, on her own which is ignorant and naive.

I do not know how Napier thinks that denying prenatal care to addicted women is going to protect babies.

The bill does not even address how someone denied food stamp (now called SNAP) benefits for failing a drug test can prove she’s clean, reapply or get reinstated.  It doesn’t detail how many failed drug tests are too many.  It allows the state to start compiling a list of known drug users (only poor ones, naturally) with children but doesn’t even pretend that the bill is “for the children” or offer anything to the kids to help them cope with an addicted parent.  Instead it strikes them from the rolls, further marginalizing already vulnerable children and babies.

This will not help people “get off drugs”.  If parents were motivated simply by the thought of a better life for their kids and could quit cold turkey, they already would have.  Taking food away from the kids will raise stress levels and lower ability to cope with real life.  How does that discourage drug use?

I’m also disturbed by Napier’s equivocating drug testing for food stamps with the drug testing employers do.  SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid is not employment.  You don’t “earn” it by staying clean.

The heart of the matter, however, is the children.  The SNAP program exists, in part, to make sure America’s children get enough food.  Food stamps might be the only way kids of drug addicts get anything at all.  Are we really going to take away milk and bread from toddlers because their mother failed a drug test?

The drug testing isn’t even fair, but serves to stigmatize welfare recipients.  Are many SNAP beneficiaries drug users?  Yes.  But are we going to start testing all citizens who benefit from state programs?  WIC clients?  What if your kids are in public schools, being educated by public funds?  Is the next step refusing to teach children of drug users how to read, as they are refused lunch and dinner because of their mom or dad’s problem?

This doesn’t even address households where there is a mom and a dad.  Yes, two parent households receive SNAP and Medicaid.  What if Dad smokes a joint every night, but Mom doesn’t?  Do both parents in the house have to pass the tests, or will children continue to receive medical care as long as one parent is clean?  I think that would be discrimination against single parent households.  Perhaps the regulations will require the “clean” adult to separate households from the drug user, fracturing families.

I can’t even imagine the impact on public health.  If children have no medical coverage, and their parents are addicted to drugs, are we to think that they’ll somehow manage to scrape up money for the doctor when their child gets a nasty cough or has a bad fall?  Often, moms will manage to get their children to a medical clinic when they are sick if they have Medicaid, even if they use drugs.  But if forced to pay out pocket, suddenly kids will stop getting their vaccinations.  Stop getting treated for pink eye, the flu, bronchitis, strep.  Those kids will be sitting next to others at school, walking around the grocery store, playing on the playground, and spreading contagious illness.

Untreated sicknesses can cause devastating lifelong complications that will affect the kids quality of life and, since this is supposedly about saving money, their ability to become contributing members of society with jobs.  I predict that if passed, this bill will be pennywise and pound foolish. Yes, it will save a few bucks right now but in the future the rolls of those too disabled to work will swell as children of drug users, raised without treatment for high fevers, broken bones, raging ear infections, and not enough food, come of age.

Let’s think long term.  Will a childhood marked by not enough food, nutritional deficiencies, untreated ear infections, and not a single trip to the dentist help break the cycle of poverty?  Will this allow and encourage future generations to do well in school, earn athletic scholarships, do better, and not rely on the state?

Shame on Rep. Napier for trying to move Kentucky towards a Dickensian future, where children are only as good as their parents and there’s only starvation and untreated illness in the future of kids who happen to be born into families with substance abuse problems.

I love comments. Tell me what you think!

  • melg March 4, 2011, 2:47 pm

    I jst want to add my two cents after reading this. First of all we do have a problem with drugs in this country. But what happens if you have a welfare worker who does not like you. Then this is just another way for them to insult and delay you from collecting assistance. People need to realize that if you are on Foodstamps and your childs friend comes over if you give them a snack that was paid for by foodstamps you are in violation. If you buy hamburgers and hotdogs and offer one to your neighbor you are in violation. People do sell their food stamps its a reality. But as a hard worker who was forced two years ago to be on the system because i lost my job and my benefits ran out i was on for 7 months I found this experiance to be very belittling. And I paid taxes for the previous 12yrs faithfully taken out of my check each week. The system need to stop building jails drug addicts and put people in mandatory jail like facilities that concentrate on rehabilation, Detoxes in MA keep you for 4 or 5 days. If some is sentenced to a year in jail for drugs then they should do a year in a jail ran rehab facility. You detox you do programs you get retraining, you take parenting classes and you focus on maintaining sober living. Punishing families who receive benefits is not the right anwser. We will see more children in crack shacks when they cant pay their rent.

  • David Moisan March 5, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Quote from that pol: “I’m not hard-hearted but…”

    Yes, yes you are.

    Last fall, we had a candidate for gov. in Massachusetts who more or less wanted to do the same thing only broader. He wanted to review everyone on public assistance and analyze their income streams and their expenditures.

    He wanted to see if people on benefits were spending their money “wisely”, or on things like cable, high-speed Internet or booze.

    Meet Charlie Baker, Moral Auditor, to quote the title of a blog posting of mine.

    It’s not about reform. Nobody give me that guff. In the abstract, everybody loves reform, refinements and improvements to state Medicaid, food stamps and such and I’m no exception.

    It’s about having someone to look down on. It’s about looking at the people in the ghetto town next door and saying “I’m better than you! I make more money! I can tell you how to live!”

    It’s about endless welfare queen stories repeated ad nauseum since it doesn’t even matter if they’re true, just that they reflect people’s “feelings”.

    I was told by a proponent (and probable architect of Baker’s idea) that this would free “resources up for the truly disabled”. What would more likely happen is that those disabled people would miss a paperwork deadline processed by clerks in Bangalore and they would be off the rolls. Easy-peasy.

    This drug test requirement is no different; require positive paperwork and just “lose” it. Them nobodies are off the rolls. See ya!


    Meanwhile some middle-class stoner quacks like a duck about their civil rights when they get pulled over.

    Yeah, easy-peasy.

  • ASOKOL March 7, 2011, 4:36 pm

    Some people can’t even do urine tests because of bladder problems such as Urine retention, bashful bladder syndrome, and other disorders that make people have trouble urinating. Why deny them benifits such as food stamps for not being able to even take a urine test in the first place? That wouldn’t be fair to them. In other words, not everyone is able to do a urine test. The other thing is some people are on perscription meds that can make them have a false positive test.

  • threeandahalf April 17, 2011, 7:55 pm

    Well, my family doesn’t have a real big drug problem..so I wouldn’t know about people selling for drugs. Plus, it’s pretty hard to sell an EBT card…and just because “some” people are doing it, we ALL have to be subjected?. “Some” people rob banks..is everyone considered a bank robber then?. I think not.

    I think all the fanatics must be bored…

  • jguinther June 4, 2011, 9:23 am

    I have seen people who abuse SNAP but they are few and far between. Most of the people I know on it are the working poor. They have jobs and they pay taxes but they do not get paid a living wage. Then there are the old people, the disabled and those who have hard times. The answer is not ever going to be drug tests. It’s going to have to be a civil rights revolution for the poor.
    In an age where the police, firefighters,teachers and janitors are called freeloaders and scum there is no way to have a meeting of the minds to fix any problems. Why would the rich ever hear one word from those they view as unworthy to even decide what to eat for supper without taking a pee test? There is no equality so there can be no understanding or plan that works.

  • johnsmith August 17, 2011, 9:05 pm

    stop crying because you get drug tested to get food stamps i think it is a great idea in fact i wish they would pass a law saying any parents that fail get there kids taking away its wrong to make a kid grow up in a drug house

  • I Would Gladly Take the Drug Test August 25, 2011, 12:24 am

    I absolutely cannot believe that so many people are opposed to this law!!! I live in Georgia and have been on food stamps, medicaid & WIC before & I would have gladly taken a drug test & I would still take one to this day!!! I would be interested to TRUELY know just how many of you are NOT on welfare, do NOT use drugs??? And- Just how many of you have a job & pay taxes? I care about the children very much! My own as well as others, which is why, when I was laid off from my job of 7 years, I applied for benifits. That is what they are there for…They are there for families to be able to eat & get medical attention. Food stamps were never meant to be sold for money for any reason & certainly not to buy drugs. As for those of you that are oblivious to the fact that food stamps that are on a EBT card can be sold, what year were you born & are you even aware that you are living in the United States? All of the amazing technology that we have & you don’t think that someone figured out how to sell food stamps “from a card” LMFAO. First of all, you need someone willing to buy the stamps. Then you agree on a rate (Say you want to sell $100 worth of groceries @ 60%). The person gives you $60 dollars & you either give them your card to go to the store or you go with them to the store. They pick out their groceries & it is paid for on your card. EASY, even a drug addict could do it. Anyways, I was also on unemploymnet but I found me a job & canceled all benefits because I no longer needed them…I have nothing against people that use benefits & do not look down on them. I do not think that I or anybody else is better than them. I think that when a person abuses the system & has children that grow up learning to abuse the system, it is very easy for them to take the easy way out & continue to abuse the system… I do not agree in any way that this law will stop drug use…After all, drug use is already illegal & that didn’t stop it. But I do know that it is a good start for getting this country back on its feet & possible getting some lazy free loading people off their asses & working for their drug & alcohol money. How is taking a drug test to get welfare any different than the drug test you have to take in order to work for your money? Answer that question- No one can!

  • I Would Gladly Take the Drug Test August 25, 2011, 12:43 am

    ASOKOL- It’s called a BLOOD TEST. Surely their blood isn’t bashful too? As far as prescription medicines- you take your PRESCRIPTION PROOF with you. Just as you would at the drug test you take to get a job.

  • I Would Gladly Take the Drug Test August 25, 2011, 1:09 am

    All the people who truely do not do drug & still do not believe that we should be drug tested: What if the benefits were just done away with completely? Then no one would have to worry about taking a stupid drug test. I didn’t realize that it was really that hard to pee in a cup. Maybe they should have a class to teach you how..Oh sxxx, maybe that would be pushing it a little too far. We can’t call drug addicts stupid too. Because “they have feelings”! If they really had feeling they would feed their children with the money that has already been given to them, for just that purpose, instead of snorting, smoking or shooting it up. It’s not like we are asking these people to bend over & take one for the team. “Oh dear hard working citizen, please give us 30 seconds out of your busy schedule to pee in this cup & then you can be on your way. We are so sorry to have put you through so much trouble in order to supply you with free food & healthcare for the next six months. Hope you’re not too busy after six months, because we will need another 30 seconds of your time then. Have a wonderful day & don’t do drugs”. No one will even consider the benefits no longer being avaliable because that will never happen unless, of course, we run out of money.

  • Unknown May 9, 2012, 9:22 am

    I am 17 years old and my mother recieves assistance from the government. I’m not completely sure if she could pass a drug test because some doctors will not perscribe certain medicines to certain people, they too will come to the conclusion that its nothing needing medical attention, but for drug use. My mother’s back is broke in 3 different places and doctors will not perscribe her the pain medicine needed. This is why many people take illegal perscription drugs. Some people actually do need it out there. Others may be different. But if random drug screens get assigned then most likely my mother won’t have a way to provide for her family as a single mother. With taking beneifits away your not ONLY taking from what refer to as “drug users” but also taking from children. An has it ever crossed your mind that anything can go wrong in a persons body at anytime? Medical attention is a must for human beings. Another thing I do in FACT know that people who do sell there food stamps DONT SELL ALL OF THEM!! And now everyone wants to come to that other conclusion that people must be purchasing drugs with the money made? In some cases that may be, but my mom has sold food stamps before to be able to purchase me school photos. SO think first!!


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