Gov. Snyder passes law for suspicion based drug testing for government assistance

Posted at 3:06 PM, Dec 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-27 15:40:03-05

MICHIGAN– People receiving some forms of assistance from the Michigan government may now have to take a drug test. That’s because Saturday night Governor Rick Snyder signed suspicion based drug testing into law.

Around 80,000 people throughout the state of Michigan receive cash assistance. Now each one of those people will take psychological tests before getting any benefits.

“We will use empirically validated screening tools and likely what we are going to use is some type of psychological questionnaire that is used to determine whether somebody might have a substance abuse problem so whatever screening tool we decide to use, all applicants for cash assistance and people who are receiving cash assistance will participate in that screening tool,” said Bob Wheaton from the Michigan Department of Human Services.

The screening tool will be used for suspicion based drug testing, a concept Michigan lawmakers tried to make mandatory in 1999 before it was struck down by federal courts.

“This program is designed to avoid any constitutional issues because it requires it to be suspicion,” Wheaton said.

If someone is chosen for drug testing and it comes back positive, the cost of the test will come out of their assistance check. They’ll also have to agree to rehabilitation classes. Failing to pass for a second time or refusing to take the test at all will result in the loss of any government assistance.

“Our goal really is to help people who are having drug abuse problems that would prohibit them from getting a job as opposed to saving money. Part of the equation is that we do want to protect tax payer dollars, too, and make sure that tax payer dollars aren’t going towards people buying drugs and doing illegal things,” Wheaton said.

A pilot program for the suspicion based drug testing will be conducted in three counties that have not yet been chosen. The pilot must be complete by September 2016.