In the lower house of the Indiana legislature, House Bill 1483 - Drug testing of recipients of assistance - authored by Representative Jud McMillian (R – Brookville), passed the House Committee on Children, Families and Human Affairs this week.
If passed, the bill would require persons who apply for and receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) support to submit to random drug tests if there is a suspicion of drug abuse.
Every applicant will be given a survey to identify potential drug abuse problem. If so identified, the person would be subject to random drug screening. If someone tests positive for drug use, the person would be required to seek drug treatment as a condition of continued eligibility for assistance.
This has been tried in other states. In some instances because of the nature of the test, it has been found to be unconstitutional. The Indiana Catholic Conference said in a statement that the number of people receiving TANF who test positive for drug use has been lower than the general population.
In a statement, the Indiana Catholic Conference asked whether it is necessary to screen every applicant for TANF funds, even while "the bill does attempt to help people who need assistance in overcoming destructive behavior..."
According to the Indiana Catholic Conference, the bill assumes that these individuals are using illegal drugs or prone to abusing drugs. The conference, which represents the concerns of the Catholic bishops of Indiana to the legislature, opined "The survey creates another barrier and disincentive to seek help when the families are in real need. Often vulnerable persons see obstacles as one more way to keep them from participating in the community and discourage them from utilizing the help."
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.