New York State Senate Mulls Drug Testing Welfare Recipients


The New York Senate is considering a bill that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. Some people believe it would be an invasion of privacy. There’s a simple solution to that problem – don’t apply for welfare and your privacy won’t be invaded. Surprisingly, some welfare recipients aren’t at all opposed to drug testing.

Gladys Melchior said, “A lot of people just get on public assistance  just to buy their drugs with it. That’s wrong. You shouldn’t do that.  It’s for bills, your kids and stuff like that.”

Jessica Pavlas agreed, “A lot of people choose to blow their money,  not on their families, but on drugs.  I’ve seen it….it’s ridiculous.”

Others wonder if drug testing will be too expensive, especially now when the budget is so tight. But that argument has pretty much been shot out of the water.

As President and CEO of Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare,  Jeremy Klemanski agrees with proponents who say such a requirement would pay for itself.  SBH has drug treatment facilities in Syracuse and Rochester.  Last year SBH served 4250 clients and boasts a “70 to 80 percent” success rate.  Klemanski says the social benefits of helping welfare recipients kick their drug habits are significant.  He says a majority of crimes are committed when people are “impaired.”  He says addictive behavior also affects joblessness and domestic abuse.

Klemanski cautions that any requirement that ties welfare eligibility to drug treatment should be “flexible.”  He says officials should  “be prepared for setbacks” especially in the early stages of treatment but “we must keep them engaged.”

He says the greatest benefit would be realized when the welfare recipient is healthy enough to resume his or her life free of public assistance.

Not to mention how many drug users may simply decide not to apply for welfare in the first place if they think they may have to kick the habit.

In related news, over 43 million Americans are now food stamp recipients. That’s more than 14% of the population. A reader emails: “I wonder if Michelle is proud of her country now?” I’m sure she is.

With three million of those food stamp recipients here in NY, I’m wondering how much that number could be reduced by something as simple as a drug test. But I don’t think Michelle would approve.