Drug screening law not likely to cost human services departments funding
New legislation requiring drug screening for welfare applicants is unlikely to cost the Cleveland County Department of Human Services excess funding, a department representative said.
House Bill 2388, which passed May 16, requires the Department of Human Services to screen welfare recipients for drug use and allows the agency to require it for program eligibility.
“This bill is not actually requiring a drug test upfront for everyone that receives benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),” said Sheree Powell, Oklahoma Department of Human Services communication coordinator.
Powell said adults using the TANF program must be involved in a work of educational program, and drug screening is necessary when a worker suspects drug abuse.
"If the drug test comes back positive, that person then gets referred to a drug treatment program," Powell said. "That person then needs to successfully cooperate in the drug treatment program, and then they can reapply for TANF six months later.”
Child-only cases and underage parents are exempt from the drug screening under the legislation, and an alternative payee can be named when a parent has been found ineligible for benefits, according to a press release.
“Drug screening does not apply to children receiving TANF benefits," Powell said. "So, for example, if a parent fails the drug test, they can designate an alternate payee so that child can still receive benefits."
A close family member or friend can be that alternate payee to help ensure that child or family receives benefits, she said. DHS workers also work with those families during that process.
Powell said there will be no financial changes because this bill already has been implemented. The department worked closely with the bill authors and tried to help them accomplish their goals.
About 20,000 people in Oklahoma are receiving TANF benefits, and roughly 3,000 of those people are adults, Powell said.
“We estimate that only 5 percent of the 3,000 adults are facing substance abuse problems," Powell said. "That’s actually a very small amount.”
Bill author Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, said in a press release the bill passed with wide bipartisan support.
“Oklahomans don’t want to pay to support illegal substance abuse, and this bill will encourage addicts to undergo substance abuse treatment and tax dollars to go to those who are truly needy,” Liebmann said.
The legislation will take effect Nov. 1.
For more information contact Sheree Powell at 405-521-3027 or Sheree.Powell@OKDHS.org.