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Rep. Sykes: State should focus on fighting roots of poverty, not demonizing poor

Says drug testing welfare recipients has been proven ineffective, costly
August 4, 2015
Democrat Newsroom

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) criticized today’s announcement of revived legislation from two Republican legislators to establish a pilot program to drug test state welfare recipients.

“Instead of pursuing common sense solutions to decrease drug use, this legislation resorts to an all too familiar pattern of demonizing people who are already struggling to make ends meet,” Sykes said. “Drug testing public assistance recipients has been shown to be ineffective and costly, while never addressing the root causes of drug abuse.”

The proposed program would require cash assistance recipients to complete a substance abuse screening test. Those who the test deemed likely to be dependent on drugs would be required to take a drug test, and, if they failed, would be referred for treatment and banned from receiving benefits for six months.

“If members of the general assembly want to decrease both drug use and reliance on public assistance, they should advance policies that require equal pay for equal work, access to opportunity for all Ohioans, and quality public education for all of Ohio’s children,” said Sykes.

Similar laws in other states have failed after wasting hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars. For example, only 2.6% of Florida’s public assistance recipients tested positive under their now defunct law compared to Center for Disease Control statistics showing 9.4 percent of Americans using illicit drugs in 2013.

As of April 2015, over 15,000 adults and almost 95,000 children in Ohio receive cash assistance.