It is assumed by many that people who are receiving public assistance funds are using this money to support their alcohol and or drug addictions. Is drug testing to receive public assistance an answer to this problem? Would making this a condition of eligibility actually push people with serious substance abuse and or dependency problems farther away from the help and treatment they need?
Federal Welfare Reform
The Federal Welfare reform act which, was passed in the mid 1990’s has changed the way our system addresses these issues. PRWORA (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) provided some distinctive features to address the issues, and changed the idea that there was universal entitlement for all, and helped to reinforce the notion that there is a class of the deserving poor. In 2001 California implemented the policies required and created our version of the TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) called Cal-WORKS (California’s Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program.) This program has allowed for rules to be implemented such as time limits, work requirements and the availability of substance abuse treatment. (Newell, 2011)
The population and the substances.
According to the National Poverty Center (2004) the numbers have been overstated and the number of people that are on welfare and are abusing substances are lower than originally estimated. The studies have varied widely in their findings due to the different types of measurements used and the fact that most of these reports include other types of assistance such as General Assistance. The number quoted for the TANF programs are approximately 9.6%, these numbers very similar to the rates of use amongst the general population (Jayako...
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...e Workers’ View of Substance Abuse and Welfare Reform. Contemporary Drug Problems, 32(3) 429-455.
Jayakody, R., Danziger, S., Seefeldt, K. & Pollack, H. (2004, April). Policy Brief. NPC (National Poverty Center), (2), 1-4.
Newell, W. (2011). Tax Dollars Earmarked for Drugs? The Policy and Constitutionality of Drug Testing Welfare Recipients. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 43(1), 215-254
Radel, L., Joyce, K., & Wulff, C. (2011, October). Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: Recent Proposals and Continuing Controversies. ASPE Issue Brief Office of the Assistanct Sercrtary for Planning and Evaluation Officer Of Human Services Policy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ,( 2-28.)
Spencer, PhD, M.S., Muroff, MSW, J.R., & Delva, PhD, J. (2000). Conditional Welfare: A Family Social Work Perspective on Mandatory Drug Testing. The Haworth Press Inc., 4 (4), 3-14.
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