LOGAN — Currently circulating on social media is a link that will lead to an electronic petition for State Senator Capri Cafaro (D) and State Senator Cliff Hite (R) pushing to approve drug testing on all Ohio food stamp and public assistance applicants.
The petition points out that many people are required to complete drug screening in order to begin a job, and states that it’s only right that welfare recipients be tested too.
The proposal goes on to state that the author believes that if they set guidelines for Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) they can save taxpayers money, and proposes a screen during the application process and one random test each year.
This is not the first time this subject has come up in Ohio. In 2013, Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-OH), of District 77, pushed to establish a system that would require adults seeking government assistance in the form of welfare, pass a drug test before they qualify.
The proposed legislation would have created a pilot program within three counties to test illegal drug use by recipients in Ohio Works First that would have lasted two years, at the end of which the Department of Jobs and Family Services would have submitted a report to the General Assembly outlining the results of the tests. Depending on the results, the program would have then either expand statewide, or been cancelled.
Should the petition succeed and legislation be presented, Ohio would be joining at least 18 other states to introduce proposals to mandate drug screening for public assistance applicants, including Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Virginia.
In 2013, the program would have relied on an “honor system,” with a question on the application inquiring if applicants have used drugs in the past six months. If the applicant answered ‘no’ then they would not be screened. If the applicant answered ‘yes’ then they would undergo a drug screen and, if that was failed, be banned from receiving welfare benefits for at least six months and referred to drug treatment. The legislation also noted that dependents of applicants would not lose their benefits.
The Logan Daily News reached out to the South Central Ohio Job and Family Services for comment, but unfortunately no representatives were available to discuss the petition. However, Hocking County Health Commissioner Doug Fisher did provide an opinion regarding the matter.
“My feelings as health commissioner, looking at the public health perspective, is that there’s nothing wrong with us trying to monitor and try to take care of the tax payer’s money, and make sure we’re spending it correctly,” said Fisher.
“We’re sitting here with an epidemic, an opiate abuse and a drug abuse epidemic that we’re amongst right now that we have in our communities. There’s nothing wrong, like I said, with trying to get these individuals who struggle with drug addiction to a treatment program, and this might be a means with which they can help identify that by taking them off of assistance, that then helps to force them towards treatment.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 states have already passed laws that require drug testing or screening for public assistance, including Utah, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Arkansas and Alabama; however in Florida a judge ruled to permanently cease enforcement of the law, stating that it violated constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.
The petition can be found at www.change.org, and currently has 38,584 supporters, which is 11,416 supporters short of its 50,000 goal.