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Senate Approves Scaled-Back Version Of Drug Testing Bill

Senator R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s sponsor, says if a recipient fails a drug test, they continue receiving welfare dollars as long as they seek some type of drug treatment.

The Indiana Senate Tuesday approved a significantly scaled-back version of legislation requiring some welfare recipients to be drug tested.

The original welfare drug-testing bill would have required all welfare recipients to take a pre-screening test that would have determined whether they were inclined to drug addiction. Those people would have been put into a random drug testing pool.

But the Senate dramatically reduced the scope of the bill – now, only welfare recipients with drug convictions would be tested.

Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, the bill’s sponsor, says the measure is not about denying benefits.  He notes that after a failed test, the recipient can continue receiving welfare dollars as long as they seek some type of drug treatment.

Young says if they test clean twice in a row within four months, they won’t lose the benefits.

“Once you get addicted to it, it’s the drug that runs your life,” Young says. “We’re only seeking to try to get people help.”

But Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage, says there’s too much unknown about the scope of a program that faces start-up costs that could be as high as $1 million.

“So we’ve got a million dollars that we’re going to spend to set up a whole drug testing program when, right now, we have no idea whether we’re testing 15 people or 1,500 people,” Tallian says.

Young says a change made in the Senate, pushing back the start date for the program by six months, will cut the start-up costs by more than half.

The bill is headed for conference committee for the two chambers to work out their differences.

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