Utah's new drug-screening program for welfare applicants has saved the state a considerable amount of money. Although only 12 persons tested positive for drugs during the past year, roughly 250 persons were unable to meet the state's entire drug-screening requirements. As a result, they were refused benefits for three months, after which they were able to apply again.
In Utah's welfare program, applicants are required to answer a written series of questions. Based on the answers, drug tests are performed on some applicants. Applicants who test positive for drugs are required to receive treatment. They are not denied benefits.
It seems reasonable to assume that many of the applicants who failed to complete the written screening process may have a problem with drug use. However, there may be other dysfunctions that cause applicants to not complete welfare applications, such as mental health issues. According to Utah's Department of Workforce Services, that saved Utah taxpayers more than $350,000. However, savings is not the end goal here. As Top of Utah state Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told the Associated Press, a next step for Utah's social services is to find out why persons would rather forgo benefits in order to -- presumably -- keep abusing drugs.
If someone is using drugs, they shouldn't get state welfare benefits. However, locating the problems that bar welfare benefits for would-be recipients is only half the solution. The most preferable end is for all Utahns who qualify for welfare to be eligible to receive the benefits, and eventually gain employment and get off welfare. Hopefully, state officials will work hard to get applicants off drugs, making them eligible for a path to self-sustainability.