Adding a treatment component to an Ohio proposal to test welfare applicants for illegal drugs could make the plan more palatable to critics. It is a step members of the state Senate should consider.
A major bill ready for a state Senate vote today includes a provision on drug testing. It would allow three counties to volunteer to test public assistance applicants for use of illegal drugs. Those who test positive would not be permitted to collect cash benefits for six months.
Opponents of drug testing for welfare applicants say such plans stereotype the poor. They add that families, not just drug users, suffer when public assistance is jeopardized.
A major weakness in the Ohio proposal is that it contains no requirements for applicants who test positive to obtain treatment for addictions. Doing so - and testing "clean" subsequently - should allow former drug users to obtain public assistance benefits.
Without such an addition to the bill, that section of it will face severe opposition. Lawmakers should add the component in order to help, rather than just penalize, the poor who have drug problems.