Drug Testing – Another Hurdle to Obtaining Government Assistance

Individuals applying for state assistance may soon expect to take a drug test before being approved for government assistance, according to the Reno-Gazette earlier this month.

Senator James Settelmeyer of Minden sponsored a bill, entitled SB89, on February 6 of this year that will enable the state to refuse help in the form of public assistance to any applicant who tests positive for illegal drugs. This includes food stamps and medical assistance.

Those who are reapplying for assistance will be tested as well, according to the bill.

The test is an oral fluid drug screen and involves swabbing a sample of saliva from your mouth. Usually, the process is quick and the results are evident within 10 minutes. It should save applicants some time in knowing whether they are eligible for assistance.

For applicants who feel the oral fluid test results are wrong, however, a urinalysis test can be performed to confirm test results. All data collected will be kept private and cannot be used in court as evidence against individuals who test positive for drug use.

The goal of this bill is to encourage Nevada’s residents to seek help for their substance abuse. “If you’re on drugs and the state continues to give you funds, we’re not helping,” Settelmeyer said. Applicants refusing testing or treatment can also be denied assistance, under the new bill.

Nevada is just another in a long line of states adopting drug-screening laws, with Arizona, Missouri, and Florida leading the way. Other states that followed suit last year are Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The bill stipulates that applicants who are refused due to a positive test result have the right to reapply for assistance after 90 days, but will need to be retested to verify that they are clean. The state is also offering assistance to those who test positive and are willing to enter a treatment facility for their addiction. After the program is over, however, these applicants would need to be tested again before their benefits could be extended.

Applicants who may be exempted from the bill include those with a valid medical marijuana prescription, a prescription for other dangerous drugs, those over age 65, and those who are currently enrolled in a treatment program. Those in a treatment program would, however, need to test at the time of the program‘s completion.

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