Michigan drug tests group of welfare recipients, finds no violations

© Damir Sagolj
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has concluded a yearlong pilot test of welfare recipients for substance abuse, and the results may not have been what the legislature expected. Only one out of 14 people tested positive for drugs.

Michigan’s year-long pilot project to drug test welfare recipients has come to an end, and the results are in: out of 14 people tested, only one failed the test, but their case was closed for unrelated reasons before action was taken. The program began in the counties of Allegan, Clinton and Marquette on October 1, 2015 and concluded September 30, 2016.

Out of the 443 people in these counties who received or applied for assistance during that time, only 27 were eligible to participate in the program due to a court ruling that limited testing to individuals who had failed drug tests in the past.

Out of that group of 27, 10 were already receiving treatment from Community Mental Health. Three of the remaining 17 had their cases closed for undisclosed reasons, leaving only 14 to participate in the program. Of those 14, only one person "was found by a clinician to have a reasonable suspicion of use of a controlled substance and required a substance use [drug] test," the report said.

That one person had their case closed “for an unrelated reason prior to the submission of the test,” according to the report.

The report claimed that the pilot program cost $700 but did not include "increased staffing, administrative costs, administrative hearings, and program changes to the electronic benefits application system Bridges.” That comes out to $50 for each test. Given that there were 132,141 Family Independence Program (FIP) recipients in 2015, the state would have to pay $6,607,050 in order to expand the program statewide.

Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has tried various iterations of drug testing welfare recipients but has yet to find any evidence of a correlation between assistance programs and drug abuse, particularly for FIP recipients.

FIP provides temporary cash assistance to families with children and pregnant women to help them pay for living expenses. In June, a year-and-a-half long pilot program tested 303 FIP recipients. Not a single tested person failed their test.