Drug testing proposed for FoodShare recipients

Local News

State officials were in Green Bay Monday holding a public hearing on a drug testing component for adults receiving FoodShare benefits in Wisconsin. Kris Schuller reports few attended the hearing on the order, aimed to be put in place in 2018.

In a Brown County library –  a public hearing on a plan that Governor Scott Walker says will help people fighting substance abuse, while putting them on a path for employment.

“The governor and other policymakers – as they travel the state, consistently hear about open jobs, good paying jobs, but not enough candidates to fill them that can pass a drug screening and a drug test,” said Michael Heifetz, Wisconsin Medicaid director.

The state is looking to enact drug testing for all able-bodied adults without dependents enrolled in Wisconsin’s FoodShare Employment and Training program – which requires participants to work 80 hours a month or to be in a job training program to receive food benefits.

“We want to know if folks are on illegal drugs or taking prescription drugs without a prescription,” said Heifetz.

Under the proposal all participants would be initially screened, those identified as likely drug users would be tested and then offered free substance abuse treatment – should tests come back positive. If they refuse – they’d lose eligibility.

“This is designed to help folks with that hurdle,” said Heifetz.

But this attorney says the order is another barrier for low-income individuals. 

“Putting mandatory drug testing on these participants will increase their barriers to accessing food and could increase their food insecurity,” said Attorney Vanessa Kuettel of Legal Action of Wisconsin.

And this woman says it will require agencies screening participants to add more staff.

“These questions are going to add another 10 minutes to a typical interview,” said Shawn Tessmann of Dane County Human Services.

But Heifetz says it makes good sense and could be enacted by November of next year.

Public comment runs through August 28th and the federal government still needs to sign off on the plan.

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