Few would argue Ohioans want their tax dollars being used by welfare recipients to buy illegal drugs.
Nor would anyone want that person’s children going to bed hungry because the state had denied payments based on a positive drug test.
As we all know, the world is far from perfect.
That’s why the controversial proposal to require drug testing for welfare recipients by highly conservative state Sen. Tim Schaffer, R- Lancaster, provokes such strong emotions.
Schaffer’s original 2011 bill called for outright testing with no cash payments to anyone who was using drugs.
In Crawford County, where opiate abuse is a virtual epidemic, commissioners had hoped to be one of the first counties in the state to put the measure to a test.
Linda Basset, director of Crawford County Job and Family Services, said there are plenty of reasons Crawford County should be involved. The county has 15,258 people on Medicare and 8,385 people on food assistance. The food stamp problem and drugs are closely tied.
“Last year, we investigated 500 fraud cases and we would have done 10 times that many if I had the staff,” Bassett said in December. “In the past we did those investigations and handed them over to the Ohio state patrol, but there was a missing step. Now we are going through the prosecutor.
“We know people are trading their food cards for drugs or for money or other things, so now we are tracking the third-party users of the cards, and prosecuting them as well.
“We know some people are selling their food stamps because we are seeing them in food kitchen lines and other places in line for free food and they shouldn’t need that. We are also making sure that the person using the card is the person who is supposed to be using the card.”
A watered-down version briefly inserted in a state budget bill last week required applicants to declare if they had ever taken illegal drugs with testing required for only those who answer affirmatively. Gov. John Kasich wisely asked lawmakers to slow down and consider the issue as its own bill.
Additional changes also allow for secondary payees to receive funds to care for children in the case of a positive test, plus funding for counseling the drug user.
Those are positive steps.
If Schaffer’s goal is to help reduce drug use and people truly improve their lives by providing real addiction treatment options, then this bill has merit. If he’s just trying to delight his conservative base, as it seemed a year ago, that’s another matter.
As the News Journal has illustrated in rich detail on many occasions, Ohio has a serious drug problem just like most states. We remain deeply concerned about the epidemic of opiate abuse and resulting deaths, especially in our own communities. These addictions also fuel crime and make us all feel a bit less safe.
So, it makes perfect sense to help those down on their luck for any reason and fighting addiction.
If Ohio can design and operate a drug-testing program with more compassion than punishment and help people improve every aspect of their lives, we’re on board.
But that will take a real commitment of time and tax money, probably much more than is now being spent by welfare recipients buying drugs.
To us, it’s a fight worth fighting.
Author unknown – filed under opinion editorials on the MNJ site
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