SALT LAKE CITY -- A House committee approved a bill that could make drug testing mandatory for some who file for financial assistance with the Department of Workforce Services.
The House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday approved, 5-2, House Bill 155, sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
The bill now goes before the House for further consideration.
Wilson said the bill is necessary for a number of reasons, including that at least 9 percent of those receiving financial benefits have some type of substance addiction.
About 3,000 people are receiving some type of unemployment financial benefit from the department and the 9 percent adds up quickly, he said.
Wilson said his bill does not punish a person who has a drug addiction, but identifies them more quickly, allowing the department to get them help more quickly, and then they are able to find a job more quickly.
Gina Cornia, with Utahns Against Hunger, said those who are unemployed "have complicated lives."
She said she appreciates Wilson for not saying all those who are unemployed have drug addictions. Many of those who are unemployed cannot find a job because of mental health issues, lack of basic education, or because they have been involved in a violent domestic relationship.
Helen Thatcher, with the Department of Workforce Services, said the bill will help with identifying much sooner people who have a drug dependency.
Wilson said his proposal is different from Florida's or Michigan's. Those states test everyone who applies for assistance.
According to Wilson's bill, a person who has been taken off of the financial assistance program for failing to comply with the requirements would have to take a written test to get back on the program. The written test would determine if the person has a drug dependency. If the written test shows the person has an addiction issue, the person would need to take a urinalysis drug test. If the urinalysis comes back positive for drugs, the person would be required to get treatment in order to get financial benefits.
The treatment would be paid for through Medicaid, Wilson said.
"Unlike other states, we don't test from the beginning, and we will keep people on the program," Wilson said.
The objective, he said, is to get people employed.