LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — More than 16,000 Arkansans applied for benefits through the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program last year but only six were referred for drug tests.
Out of the six referred, three refused or failed to show for a test. Out of the remaining three referred, two tested positive.
It’s a policy Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, opposed back in 2015 when lawmakers created the new drug screening law.
“I think it’s just one more way to stigmatize poor and to stigmatize drug use in the state and really don’t think it’s doing any good,” Leding said.
Under the Drug Screening and Testing Act of 2015, applicants can voluntarily answer questions that may result in a drug test referral.
“The fact that the number was so low in terms of positive tests didn’t surprise me at all just because of the way the system works,” Leding said. “You have to essentially voluntarily admit to drug use in order to be susceptible to this test.”
“When we are talking about drug testing people we need to make sure that it’s worth it, appropriate and practical and it’s relevant to safety and security,” added Leding. “It shouldn’t just be something that we do because it’s either politically a good idea or it’s something that just makes us feel good.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, 16,460 applied for these benefits in 2018 and it cost the state $14,985.
Zoe Calkins, a spokesperson for the department, told KATV the drug testing itself cost $105. She said the rest was spent on paying salaries. Regardless, Calkins said, that money would have been spent anyway as part of salaries since it falls under duties within the department.
KATV previously reported that in 2017 just four applicants tested positive for drugs.