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Drug testing of welfare recipients wins support of one IN Senate committee

Opponents of legislation that would require some welfare recipients to be drug tested say the bill risks driving children deeper into poverty.  Still, the measure cleared its first hurdle towards passage in the Senate.

The proposed legislation requires all recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars to take a written test that determines if they’re likely to abuse drugs.  Half of those who show a propensity for addiction are then drug tested.  Those who fail the drug test are given the option to enroll in a treatment program or lose benefits.  Once in the treatment program, they must have two, consecutive clean tests within four months to keep their benefits at the end of the four-month period. 

Cathy Williams with the Children’s Coalition of Indiana says when a parent loses their benefits, their children lose the benefits too.

“And if you are cutting off assistance from the household you may put the families in a situation where they can’t keep their lights on, their heat on, their water and that will put the kids at more risk.”

But the bill’s author, Representative Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), says the state has allowed people to use children as shields to avoid addressing the issue of drug abuse.

“Either we’ve got a situation where kids shouldn’t be there anyway and we’re exacerbating it by allowing drug use to continue or we’ve got a situation where kids can do just fine without their parents using tax dollars to subsidize their drug habits.”

The Senate Health Committee passed the bill Wednesday.  It now moves to the Senate Appropriations committee.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.