EDITORIAL: Michigan’s results were not so positive

Pilot program showed no drug abusers amongst welfare recipients


Contrary to the popular belief of legislators who feverishly attempt to label them as such, impoverished citizens are not all drug abusers and addicts. A year-long study in Michigan that tried to prove otherwise, just helped this statement instead.

Michigan’s one-year pilot program, the Substance Use Disorder Pilot, showed that none of the people tested in the pilot program were using or abusing drugs. Out of 443 test-subjects, only 27 contested as “possible” drug abusers. Of these 27, 10 had already been shown to have been enrolled in a program for drug counseling and out of the rest, only one was “suspected” of drug abuse and was later removed for “unrelated reasons.” The people taken as test-subjects were all recipients of some sort of government assistance or welfare. This pilot program, hoping to kick off or “counsel and assist” those who proved to be drug users, failed to find what they were looking for but helped correct a false narrative that was widespread in belief.

This pilot program was created based on a stereotype that those living in poverty and receiving government assistance are using their welfare to fund their drug addictions. The desire to push this story seems to be demonstrated in the possible consequences that Michigan planned to impose on those who failed their testing. By identifying drug abusers and addicts, Michigan intended to remove them from government assistance. Michigan’s dedication to this year-long pilot program reveals its desire to stop providing government assistance. The sad reality of the situation is that Michigan had hoped to find people who were abusing drugs to prove that people in poverty do not deserve to receive welfare. But where some people may interject that there is nothing wrong with trying to figure out who is abusing government assistance, there is a bigger problem at play.

It cannot be denied that those who are poverty-stricken are more likely to be exposed to substance abuse, but you can’t take this as a reason to attack those who are receiving welfare and subject them to tests that determine whether they “deserve” government assistance or not. This is not only putting the focus in the wrong place, but the money as well.

While Michigan itself only used $700, the pilot program was appointed $300,000. This money is being put into programs such as Michigan’s to end up with the same counterproductive results, but it could be used to boost the amount of government assistance that people in need receive or even go into improving the drug abuse counseling programs available to those wishing to receive treatment. But instead, this money is being used to play into an accusatory stereotype designed to impede on the assistance that people of poverty are eligible for.

This is not the first time states have tried to implement such tests and failed. In 2014 Tennessee showed that only 65 out of approximately 40,000 applicants who were applying for cash assistance tested positive for drugs after enacting a law that required the costly drug screening before being able to receive financial assistance. Missouri showed only 48 positive drug users out of approximately 39,000 tests. The truth is in the numbers.

Impoverished people are the target for a strong amount of hate. It seems as though states, just like Michigan, are always out to find more ways to disrupt their means of assistance, merely because of the false pretense that the people who receive welfare are lazy and overpaid. It is possible that they are unaware of the fact that people who receive government assistance sometimes only receive about $1.50 benefit per meal or that a minimum of 30 hours per week of work is sometimes required to receive welfare. Perhaps if they knew how much these people needed welfare they would be less keen on finding ways to prove how undeserving they are and more determined to actually helping them.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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