Senate Health Committee passes less severe substitute to welfare drug testing bill

The Senate version of the welfare drug testing bill cleared the Health Committee Tuesday and will come to the floor soon.

The bill substitute specifies there will be no drug test unless the welfare worker files a child abuse report. Additionally, there will be no loss of benefits if recipients enter a treatment program.

Recipients who do not enter rehab will be suspended of funds for two years. Funds would be appropriated to a third party provider and delegated to the children of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Senator Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, questions who these third party providers would be in some cases. Justus, who used to be in support of similar legislation, wants to establish funding for addiction treatment of recipients who fail the test.

“Until we put something in place to address the problem of addiction, I don’t think we should punish the children who are affected by drugs and alcohol.”

Republican Health Committee Chair Luann Ridgeway says the bill actually will protect children by addressing potentially harmful home settings.

“It protects the children. Who could honestly argue that it’s appropriate to leave a child in a welfare home where someone is abusing alcohol or drugs? That, in and of itself, could produce an environment for child abuse,” said Ridgeway.

Ridgeway says the bill also will protect tax payers.

“It makes no sense for hard-working, tax-paying Missourians, who already have to submit to random drug testing, to be paying the bills for people to turn around and then use that money inappropriately to languish in drug addiction,” she said.

A similar bill won overwhelming approval in the House, especially from Republicans.

Justus says despite some loopholes, the bill most likely will pass in front of full Senate.

– Missouri Digital News