Welfare drug testing pilot program signed into law by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

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LANSING, MI — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed a new law creating a one-year pilot program requiring the Department of Human Services to screen some welfare recipients and test those suspected of drug use.

The program, to be launched by DHS in three or more counties by October 2015, would apply to residents enrolled in or applying for the Family Independence Program.

A recipient who was suspected of drug use and failed an initial test would be referred to a treatment program. Failing a second test, or refusing to take one at all, would result in the termination of benefits.

“We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently,” Snyder said in a statement announcing he had signed Senate Bill 275 and House Bill 4118.

“This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We’ll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes.”

The program won final approval this month in the Republican-led Legislature, where critics argued it would further stigmatize individuals who are already struggling and have not been shown to use drugs at any greater rate than other residents.

The potential fiscal impact of the pilot program is not immediately clear, but DHS will be required to report results and costs back to the Legislature. Unlike an earlier draft, the final version of the legislation did not include a direct appropriation.

Implementing a statewide program could cost between $700,000 and $2.4 million, according to the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency, which said any costs or savings for the pilot version would depend on the counties selected and the number of recipients who lose benefits.

Michigan implemented a mandatory welfare drug testing pilot program in 1999, but federal courts quickly struck it down as an unconstitutional and unreasonable form of search.

Suspicion-based programs have survived legal challenges in other states, however, and the new Michigan law requires DHS to use an “an empirically validated substance abuse screening tool” to flag suspected users before any testing.

Snyder, who is reviewing a number of bills sent to him in the final days of the lame-duck session, on Friday also signed a law reconfiguring some requirements for the state’s film incentive program and extending it until at least 2021.

The film credit legislation, sponsored by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, includes revised rebate limits, requirements for in-state hires and other new personnel rules.

Courtesy of M Live

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