Jan 292011
 January 29, 2011  Posted by  Laws, Surveillance

From the Missouri House of Representatives:

The Missouri House of Representatives gave initial approval to legislation that would implement a system of drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients suspected of using illegal controlled substances. The House perfected HB 73, sponsored by Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, by a vote of 121-37.

HB 73 would require the Department of Social Services to develop a drug testing program for applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program benefits. Tests would be given to individuals who the department has reasonable suspicion to believe engage in the illegal use of controlled substances. An applicant or recipient who tests positive would be ineligible for benefits for one year. Household members of an individual who tests positive could continue to receive benefits as protective or vendor payments to a third-party payee.

In April 2009, Brandom wrote on her site:

After much debate and many long hours of questioning, the Missouri House passed legislation that I sponsored, House Bill 30. Simply stated this bill will prevent drug-users from receiving welfare benefits.

The legislation calls for the Department of Social Services to set up a drug-testing program for work-eligible applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This is a cash-aid program and currently has no restrictions for those who may use illegal or controlled substances. If officially passed and signed by the Governor, Missouri would become one of eleven states that practice drug testing provisions for TANF applicants.

In order to be tested, there must be “reasonable cause” to believe an individual is using illegal drugs. After an administrative hearing, applicants or recipients who test positive will be declared ineligible for TANF benefits for one year from the hearing.

In addition, the bill seeks to help those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Many times, users need help to get better and get back on their feet. To address this concern, the legislation requires the Department of Social Services to refer the positive testing individual to a substance abuse treatment program approved by the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. This is a program within the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

I think most of you will agree that this legislation is long over-due. Most employees, including military and federal, are required to take a mandatory drug test. Why shouldn’t welfare recipients be held up to the same standard?

While researching this bill, I discovered what great damage could be done to the developing brain and neurological system of babies born to mothers on drugs during pregnancy. The damage sustained to these children cannot be reversed. Instead, they must be cared for with psychiatric drugs.

Unfortunately, this type of drug use by mothers is prevalent in the Bootheel. More often then not, these mothers continue drug use after the baby is born forcing the child to be raised in a dysfunctional home. These problems then carry over to our local school systems where behavioral impairment and learning disabilities put them at a severe disadvantage.

This bill would not have been possible without the help of Dr. Kevin Blanton. His expertise and devotion to the health and well being of his small patients inspired committee members to pass the bill onto the floor for debate.

I strongly believe that this legislation will help encourage people using drugs to stop and get help. If they want to receive welfare benefits, they have to be drug-free. HB30 will now move to the Senate, and if passed, will begin to help and enable our citizens to live a clean and productive life, rather than harming themselves and possibly those around them.

H/T, Joe Harris of Courthouse News.

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