It's Poor Policy to Test Drug Welfare Recipients

Letter to the Editor
By Peter Provet, Ph.D.
March 7, 2012

USA TODAY's article "States consider drug testing welfare recipients" prompts the question: Why stop at poor people who receive public benefits? For example, why not test all students in state-funded schools and mothers who give birth in publicly funded hospitals?

In Arizona and Missouri, an individual is tested if there is reason to believe he or she is a substance abuser. The legislation proposed in Colorado would test all applicants for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This stigmatizes poor families and is ultimately a losing battle. Money should be dedicated to more prevention, education, treatment, and broad public-relations campaigns that extol the benefits of a wellness lifestyle and drug-free life.


Testing might seem like an easy and convenient solution. But it is often counterproductive, expensive and a poor substitute for sound public policy.


Peter Provet, president & CEO; Odyssey House; New York City

Odyssey House is a non-profit social services organization.