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Senate approves drug testing for welfare recipients

Hoosiers on welfare could be subject to drug testing under legislation approved by the Indiana Senate Wednesday.

The bill requires every recipient of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars to take a written test that determines if they’re at risk of abusing drugs.  Half of those who show a likelihood for addiction are randomly given drug tests.  Those who fail that drug test have a choice: lose their benefits or go into a drug rehabilitation program.  Those who choose rehab are tested roughly once a month for four months.  And unless they can submit two consecutive, negative drug tests in that time, they lose their TANF benefits for three months, after which they can reapply.  If they test positive for drugs again, they lose their benefits permanently. 

Princeton Democrat Lindel Hume says the prospect of taking a written test to receive welfare dollars could drive people away.

“It’s going to intimidate people who need help, who want to find a job, who want to participate in TANF and this is going to discourage them from doing it,” Hume said.

But Logansport Republican Randy Head, the bill’s sponsor, says the bill isn’t about trying to kick people off the program.

“To identify people on TANF who have a substance abuse problem and to get them into rehabilitation so they can solve that problem and become productive members of society,” Head said.

The Senate made a change from the House version that allows the children of TANF recipients who fail the drug tests to continue receiving benefits through a third party.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.