Drugs Social Safety Net

Tennessee Drug Testing Program Finds Virtually No Drug Use

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

The results from the first year of drug testing for welfare recipients in Tennessee are in and the results are not good if you believe there is any merit to this program.

In total, just 1.6 percent of the 28,559 people who applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits in the first year of testing answered one of the three screening questions positively. Out of the 468 people who peed in a state-funded cup, 11.7 percent flunked the test.

With 55 people testing positive for drugs out of an applicant pool of nearly 30,000, Tennessee’s testing system uncovered that a whopping 0.19 percent of those who applied for aid were drug users. Ultimately, 32 applicants were denied benefits for failing to complete the state’s mandatory drug rehab process for those who test positive.

Only 55 out of 28,559 tested positive, and out of those 55 only 32 were ultimately denied benefits.

Those who tested positive are required to pay for their own tests, however the cost of testing the other 413 people is covered by the state. The state obviously also covers the cost of screening and the staff who perform the tests.

The state has undoubtedly spent more money on this program than it saved by denying benefits to 32 people.

Beyond the financial cost, there's also a human cost. What exactly will those 32 people do now? Become homeless? What amount of psychological damage has this done to the hundreds of people tested for unfounded reasons?

I suppose the human cost is of no concern if you're a lizard.