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Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug testing for food stamps and other welfare benefits is a debate people seem to never get tired of having. Over the past few years there have been many state trying to use this kind of restriction in order to save money on benefits, but ironically these programs seem to have a history of being ineffective and actually costing the states money. Money which taxpayers provide. Even though the effort seems like a lost cause, many are not yet convinced.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, apparently has no intention of giving up his mission to drug test welfare and food stamp recipients. Despite the continuous failures of such initiatives, the governor is persistent. Now, Walker has gone so far as to write a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, asking him to give his state permission to begin drug-testing residents who collect food stamps.

Dear Mr. Trump

In the letter Governor Walker wrote Trump on Tuesday, December 20, Walker echoed his desire to require that all able-bodied adults applying for food stamps have to submit to a drug tested, among other requests. Reports state that Walker’s letter said that states can

“-effectively develop and deliver initiatives that align with your goal to make America great again.”

Walker told the Associated Press that he was optimistic that President-Elect Trump would respond quickly once he has taken office. Governor Walker also released a statement reinstating his position regarding a state’s rights. He wrote that,

“Too often, states have become mere administrative provinces of an all-powerful federal government in Washington. Now is the time to reverse that trend. These requests are the first of many my administration will make as Wisconsin leads the effort to restore balance between state and federal government.”

Apparently Governor Walker adamantly rejects the idea that drug testing for welfare is discrimination. He seems committed to this cause, regardless of what the federal government or statistics have told him.

The Failure of Drug-Testing for Food Stamps

As it stands now, federal law prohibits mandatory drug tests for food stamp recipients. Still, that doesn’t seem to bother Walker, who sued the federal government last year for the right to drug test food stamp recipients and those who receive unemployment benefits. In this campaign for a stricter policy, Walker claimed the drug testing was to be if there was “reasonable suspicion” of drug use. However, the suit was never able to gain any traction.

The kicker is, even if Walker were able to make his plan for drug testing for food stamps a reality, these kinds of programs have proven time and time again to be an excessive waste of money and resources.

Some of the States that Tried Drug Testing for Food Stamps

  • In 2009, Arizona claimed that it would save $1.7 million annually by drug-testing welfare applicants. Yet after 6 years it had only saved approximately $4,000
  • In 2013, Missouri spent $493,000 on similar testing, butrecorded just 20 positive results.
  • In 2014, Mississippi launched a program drug testing for food stamps. Out of the first 5 months, only 38 people out of 3,656 were tested, and only 2 tested positive.
  • Tennessee had a drug testing for food stamps program, but it only ended up denying 30 people out of 28,559 applicants. Again, the cost of testing outweighed the cost of benefits saved.
  • Florida lost out BIG with their drug testing for food stamps program. The state recorded a loss of $45,780… after only a four-month period from July to October 2012!

Not to mention it was later revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union that Scott had spent $400,000 in taxpayer money to defend his program and appeal the court rulings that it was unconstitutional, a fight which he inevitably had to give up.

These are just a few examples of failed initiatives requiring drug testing for food stamps.

The Problem in the Programs

In a serious shade-throwing piece regarding Wisconsin’s run for drug testing for welfare, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated last year,

“Governor Walker hasn’t read the law. It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is.”

In a similar discussion in 2014, the USDA told the state of Georgia,

“Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law.”

This debate always comes to the argument of “if someone has to drug test to have a job, others should have to drug test to get taxpayer money in the form of welfare.” The reality is, not everyone has to drug test in order to get a job. Clearly, as these past few years we have seen a massive hike in drug abuse, overdose and drug-related fatalities. To insinuate that all these people are unemployed is just ridiculous.

My favorite idea was to require drug testing for the wealthy to receive tax breaks, but that idea didn’t get quite as much support from government officials for some weird reason.

Another side of that implication is why many are offended by these programs, because they believe it assumes everyone who is poor and needs government assistance is a drug user. Even beyond that, others say it is harsh to deny those who could possibly be struggling with drugs and condemn them to a cycle of crime and abuse.

Either way, Wisconsin’s governor seems pretty confident that the way to “Make America Great Again” is by drug testing for food stamps, no matter how many times it has been ineffective or far too expensive to justify.

An addict isn’t ‘scared straight’ by these kinds of tactics, and our country is seeing the importance of treatment instead of punishment. There is a way out, and Palm Partners is here to provide effective treatment for those willing to seek help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free  now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Drug Testing for Welfare Program Shows Zero Positive Results

Drug Testing for Welfare Program Shows Zero Positive Results

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug testing applicants for welfare benefits is not a new concept. Over the past few years several states have attempted similar restrictions on providing benefits to welfare applicants. Each time the programs were initiated they were met with opposition and criticism, but as of later 2015 there were 12 states already with legislation requiring drug tests for welfare, and another 14 had proposed similar strategies. However drug testing for welfare does not have very supportive evidence backing it.

One state conducted a controlled study for implementing such a policy. The studies numbers have shown just how ineffective drug testing for welfare can be. For the last year Michigan tried to enforce its own drug test pilot program for welfare recipients. Guess how many people failed.

Go ahead… I’ll wait…

You guessed it (or read the title of this article) – Zero!

The Numbers of Michigan Drug Testing for Welfare

A while back the Michigan Legislature passed a law requiring the department to implement suspicion-based drug testing for cash assistance recipients. After the law was passed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) created the Substance Use Disorder Pilot. In the year 2000 an earlier attempt at wholesale testing was ruled illegal in Michigan, but the pilot program was permitted to only drug test those who answers on a questionnaire indicated they might be drug users. The program was set up in three counties.

So, to clarify, not every single person who applied for welfare was drug tested. In fact, these numbers only take into account the people in these 3 counties that qualified for the pilot program.  The numbers show that out of 443 potential candidates for the program:

  • Only 27 were identified as potential drug users
  • 10 of the 27 were exempt from testing because they already been enrolled in some type of treatment resource for drug use
  • Of the remaining 17, only one participant was identified as requiring a suspicion-based drug test, but that case was then closed due to “unrelated reasons”

So what it all boils down to is the drug testing for welfare pilot program did not catch a single person in violation of the policy.

Motivation for Testing

One progressive idea in the Michigan drug testing for welfare pilot is that according to legislation, if a recipient tests positive, it does not mean a loss of benefits. However, the individual must agree to substance abuse counseling, covered by Medicaid. MDHHS Communications Manager Bob Wheaton spoke out in defense of the idea, stating:

“Our primary motivation for doing this is to help people who do have issues, so they can find employment,”

“If we’ve found someone has an issue and needs to undergo treatment, it’s because drug use could be a barrier to future job opportunities that would help a recipient stop relying on benefits.”

This is a somewhat refreshing perspective on the concept. Instead of blocking the assistance, the idea was essentially to make other help available. Still, it does almost sound like blackmail for benefits. So far, there has been no confirmation as to whether Michigan will continue the pilot program.

Should People Drug Test for Welfare?

While several states have enacted their own measures for drug testing for welfare, many have denounced it as a practice that enforces stereotypes. The idea that only poor people are drug addicts or are using government money to buy illegal substances is a very controversial narrative. Yet, several similar programs have seen very similar results, meaning a lot of taxpayers have covered the costs of drug testing for welfare, only to find that the programs have wasted far more money than the states ever would have paid out in benefits. Some of these states include:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Maine
  • Arizona
  • Florida

One organization’s nationwide analysis determined that in 2015, states spent almost $1 million on drug testing for welfare. To add insult to injury, almost all of them found less than 0.4% of recipients were guilty. In some cases, like Governor Rick Scott in Florida, officials threw away thousands upon thousands more to fight courts to keep their ineffective programs. Luckily, Michigan’s pilot only cost the state $700.

So we ask, should there be drug testing for welfare? If you have social media surely you see people make bold statements about drug testing for food stamps and the like.

The truth is results in numerous sections of the nation suggest there isn’t a correlation between drug use and being on government assistance. The statistics simply do not exist to support this prejudice. People can pretend to be better than, but they are missing the facts; that the government has already wasted a lot of everyone’s money trying to prove their point, and they were wrong.

Drug testing for welfare is another way that stigma has prevented progress for many struggling to overcome addiction. However, offering treatment seems like a good resource to offer. Safe and effective treatment can make all the difference, and too many people have to go without such treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now!

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Drug Testing The Rich For Their Tax Breaks

Drug Testing The Rich For Their Tax Breaks

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

There is no typo in the title. We are talking about requiring the top 1% to submit to drug testing to get their special tax treatment! As I read this story, I wonder if anyone even honestly entertains this. Not because I think it’s a bad idea, but because it seems so unlikely to actually succeed. Still, there is a Congresswoman who is pushing to make it happen.

So what brought this about, what would it mean for the rich and would it actually change things?

Fanning the Flames

What brought this idea about? Well, for years now Republicans seem to have become obsessed with drug testing the poor. Across the country lawmakers attempted to establish regulations for recipients of food stamps and welfare to make sure those who would be recreational drug users would not get these benefits. Examples:

  • Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker created legislation requiring those who applied for Temporary Assistant for Needy Families (TANF) to answer questions concerning their history of drug use. Based on the answers some would then have to submit to urinalysis to receive social aid.

  • Florida

You may remember we touched on Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida who pushed for a drug testing policy. However, in 4 months there were only 108 applicants out of 4,086 who actually tested positive for illegal drugs. This shows the policies are incredibly inefficient and expensive. Not to mention nowhere near cost-effective.

  • Tennessee

Tennessee had a drug testing policy for welfare and food stamps put in place. But after an entire year the program only denied 30 people out of 28,559 applications based on failed drug testing.

Time and time again trying to impose a rule, which many have described as blatantly discriminatory, to further inhibit the disenfranchised has proven expensive and embarrassing.

Drug Testing Double Standards

After all this, Democratic Representative Gwen Moore has decided she is sick of these one-sided and offensive regulations which she called “criminalization of poverty” being pushed by Republicans. So, to make a bold statement that challenges the double standard these kinds of drug testing policies seem to promote, she proposed a bill called “Top 1% Accountability Act” to level the field.

What is the aim of this ambitious act? Anyone claiming itemized tax deductions over $150,000 per year must pass a urinalysis in order to get full benefits. Moore thinks since the richest Americans take advantage of their tax breaks they should be held accountable for drug use.

But why?

Well, drug testing poor people in order for them to obtain social help is rooted in stigma, enforcing the idea that poor people are addicts. Moore isn’t making this stuff up. A variety of studies analyzing drug testing of welfare recipients show these people are no more likely to use drugs than the general population.

No More Rich VS Poor

In essence, if you want to say that the poor need to be clean in order to get help from the government, why should rich people get a pass for abuse illegal drugs when they ask for lenience on their taxes? If rich people can drug test the poor to save tax-payer dollars, isn’t it only fair that the richest people should be drug tested in order to save on the taxes they pay for all the hundreds of thousands they make?

Plus, if a poor person fails drug testing, there may be a little chunk of money saved from welfare and food stamps, but history has shown it is not even worth the expense of testing. But, if a rich person fails their drug testing they are going to pay a much larger chunk of change into taxes and helping the economy.

Plenty of states have already spent enough on programs to drug test for social assistance that don’t seem worth the effort, so maybe it’s time we move past stigma into a solution. Combating drug abuse and the fight against addiction can start with the right treatment program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

UFC Fighter Jon Jones 5 Months Sober and Heading Back to Octagon

UFC Fighter Jon Jones 5 Months Sober and Heading Back to Octagon

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

A little over a year ago we looked at the story of Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who at the time had been described by almost anyone who was an authority on ultimate fighters as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and how Jones had enrolled himself in rehab after a UFC mandated drug screening came up positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.

The professional record behind Jon Jones was beyond impressive leading up to the substance abuse issue that was taken up quickly by the press and had a great deal of consequences for the fighter. At just 23 years old had already become the youngest champion in UFC history, but that didn’t stop him from getting himself into trouble abusing drugs.

Back when the story was breaking out about Jones going to rehab he had just defeated Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision at UFC 182, which marked his eighth successful title defense- actually the most in UFC light heavyweight history! Now Jones talks about being 5 months sober and how he looks forward to getting back in the Octagon with a new state of mind.

Unstoppable Bones

It would seem after last week’s UFC “Unstoppable” press conference in Las Vegas that despite his indiscretions the MMA community is ready to forgive the man known as Jon “Bones” Jones. Before his time in treatment and out of the Octagon Jones had often been villainized by fans during his dominant reign in his weight division, however he was greeted with cheers at nearly every turn during Friday’s event at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Following an incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident Jones was suspended indefinitely and stripped of his title. He later entered a plea agreement in the case and after demonstrating that he would fulfill the terms of his probation Jon Jones was reinstated by the UFC.

The former light heavyweight king will return to the Octagon on April 23rd for the first time in more than a year to face off once again against Daniel Cormier at UFC 197.More importantly, Jones says, he has a new outlook on life. Finally Jon Jones is being given an opportunity to get back the belt that was never truly taken from him, but the unstoppable “Bones” is ready for more reasons than one. This is clearly shown when looking at how there no love is lost between Jones and Cormier. Cormier seemed to discernibly displeased at the crowds adoration of Jones, and was booed repeatedly as he questioned the thought process of those in attendance. Jones couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to get in a few jabs at his rival while explaining his intentions to move forward from his troubles of the past year, stating:

“I had no clue what [Cormier] said over all those boos. There’s no secret I’ve had a lot of issues in my career. I think DC he wants me to sit up here with my head held low with a quitter attitude. I’ve went through my depressed moments and now I’m ready to get out of that and hold my head up high, forgive myself for some of the ways I’ve made mistakes and to move forward. He wants me to sit here all mopey; it’s not gonna happen.”

Jon Jones has stated since his recovery from his issues with drugs he is on a personal mission to prove to the world that you can get back on your feet after almost anything if you don’t give up on yourself. During the press conference Jones stated:

“We’re all on different journeys. Sometimes people mature faster than others. Sometimes it takes a few more mistakes to realize what they have and what they’re messing up,” Jones said. “For me I felt as if the last situation really brought me to my knees. I lost my respect nationwide. I lost my endorsements. I lost my job. I lost so much.

“For me this was rock bottom. Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to be alone and work on my character outside of being an athlete. Today I stand here five months sober, feeling amazing and rejuvenated. And I’m excited to get back in here, get on the right track and put on some exciting fights for you fans.”

With Jon Jones himself being to open and adamant about his excitement to be making progress in recovery and about his second chance at being the champion fighter he set out to be in the UFC it does stand to support the idea that even a word renowned fighter can get knocked down hard by drug addiction, but that anyone with a fighting spirit can have an honest shot at bouncing back and changing their life.

Anyone can become a victim to substance abuse, from celebrities and athletes to every-day citizens. We all also have the same chance to fight to survive our illness, but we all need to start training somewhere and there are plenty of people out there who want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Controversial Super Bowl PSA on Heroin Receives Mixed Reactions

heroingirl

Author: Shernide Delva

If you were one of the millions of Americans who watched last night’s super bowl, you might have seen a heroin PSA play during the commercial break. A super bowl PSA called “All American Girl,” ran on St. Louis airtime. It was produced by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) to warn parents about the dangers of heroin use.

While the goal of the super bowl PSA was to raise awareness, many believed the ad was ineffective and instead promoted stigma and fear.  On the other hand, others felt the ad was successful in grabbing the attention of those who need the information most: the parents.

The PSA was taken negatively because many viewers felt it displayed the same fearful tactics that have been used for decades. The PSA showed a young girl cooking up heroin. The PSA then flashes to the girl cheerleading out of rhythm. Over time, the girl throws away her cell phone and even gets rid of her own dog. Her mother loses track of where she is and is extremely worried about her daughter. The girl eventually loses her friends, schoolbook and career aspirations.  At the end of the super bowl PSA, she looks pale and waif-like and the super bowl PSA closes warning viewers of the dangers of heroin.

The super bowl PSA is supposed to raise awareness of how heroin causes many to throw their life away, but instead it raises an important question…

Are ads like these effective?

Back in 2011, a meta-analysis entitled “The effectiveness of anti-illicit-drug public-service announcements” proved through several studies that these types of PSAs are not effective in preventing drug abuse. However, the NCADA believes that releasing PSAs like this will force the community to pay attention to the drug epidemic. The super bowl PSA features “happy sounding” music while showcasing a very devastating situation. This was done to prevent viewers from turning away on an epidemic that no one should turn away from.

In addition to the “All American Girl,” ad, the St. Louis region also saw another ad on the heroin epidemic called “That’s How.” The commercial also dramatizes the effects of heroin to raise awareness. It has a jolly sound in the background that contrasts the grim nature of heroin addiction.

Opinions on the super bowl PSA were both positive and negative. Barry Lessin, president of Families for Sensible Drug Policy, found the PSA to be constructed poorly.

“Yes substances can be dangerous,” he said, “heroin is dangerous, but the misguided education messaging has been proven ineffective and can be more dangerous.”

Like many states in the U.S., St. Louis has a serious heroin problem. An estimated 2,300 people have died from heroin in the past seven years. Still, those impacted by heroin use found the messages produced by the NCADA to be in poor taste.

“The feedback from the families who viewed the segment expressed serious concerns that the piece will have a detrimental impact on impressionable teens who are telling us loud and clear that ‘just say no’ doesn’t work,” Carol Katz Beyer, co-founder of Families for Sensible Drug Policy, told The Fix.

While many are taking aim at the PSA, others take a more “better than nothing” approach to the whole concept. At least, something is being done to raise awareness of how serious the heroin epidemic truly is. Chelsea Laliberte, executive director of Live4Lali, lost her brother to an accidental overdose in 2008. She said she is just pleased that the conversation of heroin is becoming more common.

“As an activist, honestly, I am pleased that this conversation has become as mainstream as the people who use heroin.”

 Overall, while the PSAs have good intentions, more research should also be done to understand what ads are truly effective in preventing substance abuse. Hopefully, more methods of prevention will help in reducing the amount of deaths from these dangerous drugs.

Substance abuse is a difficult addiction to overcome. More and more people are trying and becoming addicted to drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers. If you are one of them, remember you are not alone. Seek professional help today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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