Senate Bill 11 would require potential welfare recipients to take a drug test before they are eligible to receive aid, but not everyone would be required to take part.
Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC) anticipates 72,683 will be subject to screening in the 2015 fiscal year, based on the average number of applicants per month. That means they will take a test, at no cost to them, to determine if they at risk for drug abuse. Those who appear to use drugs, or have been convicted of a drug offense will also be required to undergo testing.
HHSC estimates Texas will save as much as $741,000 in 2015, the first year the bill takes effect and say the number will increase $20,000-$30,000 with each additional year it is a law.
However Social Services Director for the Lubbock Salvation Army, Carol World is torn.
"Is this a good bill? It may be in order to find those who really need some assistance and desire some assistance for their drug abuse," she said. "But it might hinge on being a little inhumane."
World has been involved in social services for a number of years and she says substance abuse in general has always been a problem.
"We have had this forever, but it seems to be more prevalent now than it has ever been."
Her biggest concern with SB 11 is that it will have an adverse affect on family members who are dependent upon the welfare recipient to survive, people such as grandparents, children, aunts and uncles. She says the average welfare beneficiary supports a family of 5 to 6 people.
The state senate found a way around this, by agreeing to continue funding for children regardless of whether or not their parents tested positive for drugs. The bill designates the money go to a "protective payee" such as a grandmother who cares for the child. Opponents of the plan argue this is a loop hole and the drug users will still have access to the money. Carol World agrees that it may create some issues.
"I think that a lot of pressure could be put to bear on a parent or a grandparent or an aunt or uncle, whoever is designated as payee for the children, to hand over that card."
Carol does think that this bill may serve as a good first step to help impoverished drug users kick their addiction, but feels much more needs to be done.
"It can't be just rehabilitation. Somehow there needs to be counseling involved in the rehabilitation to provide a light at the end of the tunnel for these folks to get them and their families out of the environment they're in."
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