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
Author: Justin Mckibben
As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.
Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.
The signs of stigma…
West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.
One sign, near the front door, says:
“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”
The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:
“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”
Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.
First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?
According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.
Really, no offense?
What is wrong with this picture…
This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.
These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:
- All addicts stink/don’t shower
- All addicts don’t take care of their children
- All addicts are thieves
- If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)
These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.
Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.
Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.
To those who comment…
Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.
It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.
Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.
The stigma is killing us…
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.
How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?
Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.
Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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:
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
Author: Justin Mckibben
Recently the big election season of 2016 came to a close. Not only do we have a new president, but also a few new states with big marijuana reforms. Florida is among the states to turn the tide and legalize medical marijuana, with specific restrictions of course. But one restriction that could be imposed most people probably don’t know about with medical marijuana is one on gun-ownership. So when taking a look at what some U.S. courts have ruled in the past, should medical marijuana block your gun ownership rights? How could this impact medical marijuana in Florida?
Rowan Wilson VS 9th U.S. Circuit Court
The case of S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada resident, is what recently brought this subject to light. In 2011 Wilson attempted to purchase a handgun but was denied when the gun store owner recognized her as a medical marijuana cardholder. She insisted that she only obtained the card as a political statement in solidarity with legalization. In court Wilson maintained that she does not herself use marijuana.
In August of 2016 Wilson’s hopes were shot down. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 3-0 vote that if you have a medical marijuana card, you can’t buy a gun. This result came based on the idea that medical marijuana:
“-raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
This isn’t only limited to regular marijuana users or even specifically addicts, but to anyone who has a medical marijuana card. According to the court, this ruling actually does not violate the 2nd Amendment. They claim to be in agreement with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying that firearms retailers should assume that medical marijuana card holders use the drug, even if they do not. This courts jurisdiction includes:
- District of Alaska
- District of Arizona
- Central District of California
- Eastern District of California
- Northern District of California
- Southern District of California
- District of Hawaii
So how will it play out now that there is medical marijuana in Florida?
The 4th Circuit and the Federal Level
Federal law already prohibits gun purchases by those who are described as:
“-unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance.”
Back in 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insisted that the law applies to marijuana users-
“regardless of whether [their] State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.”
This makes sense, since even though many states are legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law. So medical marijuana in Florida is subject to the same idea of federal regulation.
In the case of United States v. Carter in 2014 the connection between marijuana and violence came as the court cited a number of studies suggesting a significant link between drug use and violence. This included marijuana. In the words of the 4th Circuit, those studies found:
- “Probationers who had perpetrated violence in the pastwere significantly more likely to have used a host of drugs — marijuana, hallucinogens, sedatives, and heroin — than probationers who had never been involved in a violent episode.”
- “Almost 50% of all state and federal prisoners who had committed violent felonieswere drug abusers or addicts in the year before their arrest, as compared to only 2% of the general population.”
- “Individuals who used marijuana or marijuana and cocaine, in addition to alcohol, weresignificantly more likely to engage in violent crime than individuals who only used alcohol.”
- Among adolescent males, “marijuana use in one yearfrequently predicted violence in the subsequent year.”
The 4th Circuit argues that the question of correlation vs. causation doesn’t matter. They insist it was not the government’s responsibility to prove a causal link between drug use and violence. Simply put, they didn’t need to prove if drug use causes violence or if violence causes the drug use. To ban someone from owning a gun all they need is to make any connection.
Which, when you think about it, seems almost lazy.
Medical Marijuana in Florida VS Other Substances
So what we want to ask is- should using medical marijuana keep you from owning a gun?
Essentially the courts say that anyone who uses medical marijuana or any substance has an increased chance of risk behavior. They say that if someone has a medical marijuana card, basically they are too dangerous to allow a firearm.
But given this logic, it should apply to every substance. There are plenty of other drugs that technically fit the bill, and not just illegal ones.
Drug policy researchers Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken have pointed out that research also indicates that tobacco users also are more likely to engage in crime relative to the general population. The team published a book in 2011 called Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. In this publication they wrote:
“Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers have a higher rate of criminality,”
“Smoking in and of itself does not lead to crime, but within the population of smokers we are more likely to find individuals engaged in illicit behavior.”
Then of course there is the obvious other substance that should be on the chopping block; alcohol. The authors wrote that there’s a much stronger link between violent behavior and alcohol than there is for many illegal drugs,
“There is a good deal of evidence showing an association between alcohol intoxication and pharmacologically induced violent crime,”
The truth is, alcohol is probably one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, yet because it is “socially acceptable” it is not under nearly as much restriction. So if we are going to consider medical marijuana in Florida as means to restrict our 2nd Amendment, shouldn’t we see it the same for alcohol, or even other prescription medications?
We have said it time and time again- a drug is a drug. If we truly believe any substance, legal or not, that can be abuse is equally dangerous in terms of addiction and risk behavior than should we treat them equally? Should we restrict the right to own a gun for anyone who uses anything? Does medical marijuana make someone too dangerous to own a gun? Or is this discrimination?
Overall, the issue of marijuana reform is an increasingly complex issue and in the future, solutions to the problems of legalization will be addressed. But for those who struggle with addiction marijuana can still be a dangerous substance. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Social media and online networking are such a relevant aspect of our world today. With entire enterprises rising from online marketing, and children carrying smartphones, technology continues to be integrated into all areas of life by leaps and bounds. So with social media being utilized for basically every purpose, from personal to business, it is no surprise that some forward thinkers continue to find ways to put these all-encompassing outlets to good use.
Though stunning selfies full of filters, scenes of nature with inspiring quotes, and aesthetically perfect pictures of food dominate the Instagram app, the social media site isn’t void of some damaging content. Instagram is still used as a platform for some questionable photos, like pro-anorexia and pro-self-harm posts.
To fight back Instagram is now launching a new tool that allows users to issues. But they don’t stop there. The Instagram app also steps in to offer intervention options.
Instagram App VS Eating Disorders
The Instagram app already actively takes a stand on promoting positive mental health in some areas. It tried in 2012 to put a stop to pro-eating disorder posts. Often hashtags like #thinspiration and #ana are attached to these posts, so to prevent these tags from attracting admiration, the Instagram app tried to make these tags unsearchable. They also disabled accounts and added content advisories.
Some hashtags are banned completely, such as:
- #thinspo, short for the pro-anorexia phrase “thinspiration”
- #proana, another pro-anorexia phrase
Still, other potentially problematic tags fall into a gray area and are still allowed. The Instagram app had to witness the issue head-on when researchers examined 2.5 million posts between 2011 and 2014, also analyzing 15 pro-eating disorder hashtags that were banned or moderated. What they found was truly disheartening. For each banned/moderated hashtag, there was an average of 40 spin-off hashtags.
- #anorexia, as banned, there were 99 variations of the hashtag, such as- #anorexique or #anoexica
- #thighgap had variations of #thygap and #thigh gap
- #bulimia would be transformed into #bulimiah
According to the study, these variations even boasted more comments and more “likes” than the originals. So when the Instagram app tried to shut down the pro-eating disorder exploitation of their forum, users found loop-holes. Spin-off hashtags are also noted to exhibit a higher focus of self-harm related posts.
The Instagram app was trying to make a difference, but the fight evolved with their efforts. It is time to implement new strategies.
Now the Instagram app is putting some of the power to act in the hands of other users. Users can now anonymously flag posts about self-harm or other mental health issues, and Instagram will step in.
But Instagram isn’t militantly and automatically shutting down every post that gets flagged. Instead, the Instagram app is taking a compassionate and proactive approach. Once a picture is flagged, the user who put up the image will see a message offering help:
“Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”
Then, the app will offer to connect them with a helpline, assistance in talking to a friend or getting tips. If Instagram app users search any of those questionable tags, they’ll also be directed to the same support page.
Instagram developed the new tool in dexterity by uniting with a variety of resources, including:
- National Eating Disorders Association
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
They even reached out to real people who have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts personally to come up with the most effective and compassionate message. Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a recent interview that,
“We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,”
“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.”
In this writer’s opinion, this is an awesome innovation. This doesn’t attack the individual making the post, but instead offers support and displays concern in a positive light. Not to say there is anything wrong with banning hashtags or other methods of regulating social media. This just seems like it does not isolate the individual as much, and instead shows someone who may be suffering care and kindness. Instead of silencing a cry for help or sweeping it under the rug, it puts a solution on the table.
This kind of intervention by the Instagram app not only tries to protect those who may be susceptible to the negative impact of these images, it also promotes mental health solutions through positive outreach.
Well done Instagram.
Eating disorders and other mental health disorders are often co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse. Understanding dual diagnosis and providing holistic treatment can be very essential for effective and lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please don’t wait. Call toll-free and find out how to get help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135