DRUG TESTING FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
- July 23, 2018
Though it’s not always the case, many people with drug or alcohol addictions have little or no income. It might be that they started their substance abuse in an effort to cope with the effects of poverty – poor health, hunger, depression, hopelessness, and neighborhood crime, to name a few. It’s also true that many poor areas have a rampant drug problem and using is sometimes the only way to fit in or survive. Another possibility is that someone who previously had a decent paying job quit or was fired due to their drug use, whether because they were showing up late or skipping, stealing, or their performance was suffering. Of course, even if someone has a job, they might be spending large portions of their paycheck on drugs. Luckily, there is assistance available for people it who need it, through a variety of government programs.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – is run by the United States Department of Agriculture. Recipients get a debit card that acts as a voucher for food and is accepted in most grocery stores. Eligibility is determined by a variety of factors including income, expenses, age, and immigration status.
Housing programs are available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including rental assistance, public housing, and community development grants. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, which you may have heard referred to as Section 8, caps a family’s rent payment for 30 percent of their total income.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, distributes cash to low-income families and offers other services to help transition them from welfare to employment.
The problem for people struggling with addiction is that many legislators would like to make drug testing a prerequisite for getting any government assistance. Internal emails from the Trump administration show that the USDA is planning to allow states to do this for SNAP benefits, despite federal courts declaring it unconstitutional in the past, as a type of unreasonable search. If this new policy goes is adopted, around five percent of SNAP recipients, or 2 million people, would be affected.
Critics say that these types of laws would be discriminatory, as a majority of those with substance abuse problems are part of a minority group. They also say the testing is a waste of time and taxpayer money. For example, a law passed in West Virginia in 2016 requires “suspicion-based” drug testing of TANF recipients. Out of the 1,710 new TANF applicants between October 23, 2017, and March 30th, 2018, 242 were selected for drug testing and only 24 tested positive for drugs.
Those who support these changes argue that they simply identify people who need help and encourage them to seek assistance.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.