Drugs, Costs for Welfare Screenings: DCF Releases List
Beginning July 1, program will test TANF applicants for illegal substances
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A draft of Florida's new welfare drug-testing program lists the controlled substances that will be screened beginning July 1, as well as upfront costs that will be incurred by applicants.
The draft, which is still subject to modification, sets up a drug-screening apparatus to be supervised by the state Department of Children and Families. All applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families will be subject to the screens, officials say.
According to the document obtained by Sunshine State News, "Applicants will be given a nine-panel drug screen, which is considered to be the industry standard for detecting illegal drug use.
"The chemicals tested include amphetamines, opiates, cannabinoids, cocaine, phencycolidine, barbiturates, methadone and propoxyphene, benzodiazepines."
Positive tests for "certain substances (i.e., opiates and amphetamines) may trigger the need for further examination by a licensed medical review officer to determine whether the substances were legitimately present in the applicant due to a valid prescription, and whether the prescription was being properly followed," the draft states.
The front-end cost of the initial test is estimated in the DCF draft to run "approximately $10." That's roughly half the expense of earlier estimates.
"Applicants are responsible for the initial cost of the drug screen ... Applicants will become eligible to receive cash benefits upon the submission of a negative drug screen and be reimbursed for the initial cost in their first TANF cash benefit payment."
The draft goes on to stipulate that applicants who register a positive drug screen can have the results checked through a second, confirmatory test.
"The confirmatory test is estimated to cost approximately $30 and will be reimbursed to the applicant if the results determine that the initial drug screen was incorrect," the draft states.
If the results for the presence of controlled substances must be further analyzed, the price goes up sharply.
"The cost of an exam by a medical review officer is approximately $100. Should the medical review officer determine that the chemical substances were properly consumed by the applicant, DCF will reimburse the applicant for the cost of the exam," the draft states.
Positive tests also can instigate a series of punitive or investigative actions by DCF.
- An applicant who tests positive for drugs will be ineligible to receive benefits for a year from the date of the first positive drug test and three years from the date of a second initial positive drug test.
- Upon receipt of a failed drug test, an applicant will receive information regarding locally available substance-abuse treatment programs.
- DCF will also make a cursory review to determine whether further inquiry is needed into the safety of the minor children in the applicant’s care. If DCF possesses information regarding the applicant or minor children in the applicant’s care which, coupled by the failed drug test, indicate any reason for further concern, DCF may initiate a “Parent Needing Assistance” contact with the applicant to ensure the safety of the applicant and any minor children.
- Should DCF discover further information indicating that the applicant or children in the applicant’s care are in jeopardy, it may initiate contact through the Florida Abuse Hotline.
The draft states that applicants must consent to the release of their drug test results to DCF and notes that a positive result may be shared with the DCF Florida Abuse Hotline resulting in a child protective investigation.
"Should an applicant become ineligible to receive benefits due to results of a positive drug test, the applicant may elect to designate a protective payee through whom benefits could be administered. The protective payee designated by the applicant also must submit a negative drug screen to DCF as a condition of eligibility," the draft says.
DCF spokesman Joe Follick said the agency has not yet finalized a list of approved labs that will administer and analyze the drug tests.
Follick said DCF is working with substance-abuse centers to develop the list and expects to have a roster up by July 1.
"That won't prohibit us from adding qualified labs as time goes on," he added.
Despite the additional layers of monitoring and enforcement triggered by drug screens, DCF officials say they expect any net expenses to be absorbed by the agency's current budget.
Roughly 50,000 Florida families (93,000 individuals) receive TANF benefits, at an average payout of $240 per month.
Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the enabling legislation (House Bill 353) into law, campaigned on a pledge to remove drug users from the state's welfare rolls. So far, TANF is the only program covered.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (772) 801-5341 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.