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Lawmakers tighten proposal for welfare drug tests

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawmakers have narrowed their focus when it comes to drug testing welfare recipients, hoping that the smaller scope will both be more cost-effective and will catch more illegal drug users.

The bill would establish a three-year pilot program operated under federal approval, which requires “reasonable suspicion” of drug abuse before any drug screening could take place. According to a report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources, there are three ways to establish reasonable suspicion:

• An initial screen where an applicant would demonstrate “qualities indicative o(f) substance abuse

• Prior conviction of a drug-related offense within five years

• A newborn of a TANF recipient who tests positive for specified controlled substances within five days of birth, would require the parents of the infant to be tested. The parents could be exempt if they can produce valid prescriptions or if the parent agrees to undergo a course of substance abuse education and treatment.

Costs for the drug screens are billed to the TANF recipients’ account and will be reimbursed if the recipient tests negative, the report said.

The first two positive screens would require completion of a substance abuse and job training program, while the second offense also comes with a suspension of TANF benefits for a 12-month period…


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