A divided House panel in Florida on April 4, 2017, voted for a bill requiring mandatory drug testing for some welfare applicants. Despite legal battles that halted a previous program, the new bill requires applicants convicted of a drug-related felonyor those suspected to be under influence of controlled substances to undergo drug screening before receiving welfare benefits.
As per the new rule, applicants have to undergo the testing at their own expense prior to receiving cash assistance from the government. Individuals applying for temporary cash assistance would be required to pay up to $40 for the drug test that will only be reimbursed by the state if they pass. Those who do not pass could either reapply to undergo the test after six months post completion of a substance abuse program at their expense or prepare for losing welfare benefits for a complete year.
Through the new law, two lawmakers — Senator Jack Latvala and his son Representative Chris Latvala — want to ensure that state funds should not be used for drug purchases. According to Chris, the bill is the brainchild of a high school students’ group. As per him, the students believed that adding an applicant’s felony charges into the bill would amount to the effort not been termed as unconstitutional.
A similar failed 2011 legislation in Florida had cost the state taxpayers more than $1 million post being found unconstitutional by a federal court. In 2010, Governor Rick Scott vowed to make drug-testing mandatory for all welfare recipients. However, in 2011, a law establishing drug screening for all applicants was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court.If the new law is passed, it could cost about $500,000 to develop procedures for the Department of Children and Families to perform the drug tests and reimburse the costs.
Opposition to the bill
The proposed bill faced multiple objections by Democrats who viewed the move as unconstitutional. The opponents argue that the new bill would send the state down a slippery slope again. “Florida has turned into the place for no second chances,” said Representative Shevrin Jones, a Democrat.As per him, the law is even more unconstitutional as it profiles those who have served their time and are trying to move on or get a second chance.
As per Joyce Hamilton Henry, regional director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Florida, the new bill violates recipients’ constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and also unfairly targets certain individuals because of their past. She added that the new proposal is also an attempt to reinforce a stereotype that poor people are criminals or drug abusers and that is concerning.
Road to recovery
Whatever fate the proposed bill meets, it’s a reality that theentire country is reeling under the mental health and drug abuse crisis. If a person is grappling with any mental or substance use disorder, he/she should immediately seek professional assistance.A leading behavioral healthcare provider, Sovereign health of Florida offers a comprehensive treatment program for mental health disorders,addiction, dual diagnosis, trauma, pain management and eating disorders. We understand that as each person reacts differently to illnesses, there can be no single approach to treating all disorders. Our multidisciplinary approach helps create individualized treatment plans for each of our patients uniquely suited to meet their treatment needs.
Treatment programs offered at Sovereign Health of Florida involve a holistic combination of medication, psychotherapy and alternative therapies such as yoga, meditationand art therapy. For more information about our treatment programs, please call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-269-2493. Chat online with our counselors to know more about our finest mental health treatment centers and residential detox treatment centers near you.
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