Comments about ‘2012-2013 data shows only 12 test positive in Utah welfare drug screening’

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Published: Saturday, Aug. 24 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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This law is unconstitutional. Welfare is a right whether you like it or not. We can't subject rights to drug tests.

And the law also harms kids whose parents are on welfare. Kids are not responsible for being in poverty or for their parents doing drugs.

There have been studies that show that welfare recipients abuse drugs at a lower rate than the population at large.

But this isn't about saving money, or about curbing drug abuse. It's about humiliating welfare recipients. The same results are popping up everywhere. Florida also instated the same law and concluded that they were throwing away money.

Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT

24% dropped out after learning about a drug test?!

Wow, that is a significant number.

This means that tens of thousands of dollars is saved by not providing welfare to those who are likely on drugs.

Far cry from just 12!

This is a much needed program.

If barack and other political leaders think they can take the money I earn to give to those who don't work, I want to be sure I'm not feeding drug habits.

The legality of taking my money in the first place can be hotly debated.

But taking it to buy people illegal drugs?

This is a great program!


That is HUGE

Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT


The empirical data here shows that 24% of people dropped out once they learned they would be subject to a drug test.

Are you suggesting 24% of the population abuses illegal drugs?


24% is a very high number and is exactly what we're trying to accomplish by weeding out those who wish to steal money from others to feed their drug habits.

Shame on them and shame on anyone who thinks drug abusers should be able to take taxpayer money to feed their bad behavior.

Star Valley Ranch, WY

In the proud tradition of Utah politics, this is yet another waste of money bill, to say nothing of the invasion of privacy issue.

DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT

A very interesting statistic, Twelve people were so stoned that they foolishly went ahead and went thru the process and tested positive. Talk about folks not paying attention!

Looks like a huge number (24% of applicants) dropped their efforts to get hardworking taxpayers to give them money when they discovered they would be tested, so that alone makes the cost of the program a very worthwhile investment.

What we don't see is the number of druggies who cleverly brought a "clean" sample for the "whiz quiz" and cheated the system that way.

And, what is this with a "written test for drug use?" Something like "Are you a druggie?" and how many many people who passed that phase got tested?

Continue the tests! Please test all folks who are arrested for any crime as well. We know that many property crimes support drug habits.

Salt Lake City, UT

I have some expertise in drug screening in the civilian community (Department of Transportation mandated drug testing and employer drug-free workplace drug testing.)

My concern here is that the math indicates that these drug screens were done at an average cost of just over $5 each. An inexpensive test will generally have a high false negative rate -- it is simply not sensitive enough to pick up all the positives. This means that all these negative drug tests undoubtedly include a significant number of tests that would have been positive had a high quality collection and testing process been utilized. With this in mind, I seriously question the validity of the 99.75% pass rate. That is a significantly higher rate than the general population.

Salt Lake City, UT

Some questions for the writer of this article: Why did you not investigate what kind of test is being run and look into the collection process? Were these urine or saliva or hair tests?

A cheap point-of-care or on-site quick-test isn't going to cut it in a high-quality drug screening program. At 5+ dollars per test, I doubt that a certified drug testing laboratory was used to assure the validity of the results using gas chromatography / mass spectrometry.

Salt Lake City, UT

Another huge problem with this incredibly high pass rate is that if these were urine drug screens, it has become fairly easy to cheat on the drug screen and get a negative. There are devices, additives and adulterants, and even synthetic urine available that will easily pass an on-site quick-test. If a highly trained and very observant collector is not used, people will get away with cheating on a quick-test at a significant percentage.

Once again, at 5+ dollars per drug screen, I doubt the quality of the collection, the testing process and the final outcome. This is what happens when experts are not utilized in establishing the drug screening process, and when those in charge look for ways to get the cheapest possible test instead of the highest quality and most valid collection and testing process. Invariably this leads to mistakes and results that can be highly called into question.

Salt Lake City, UT

@Chris B and others thinking the 24% is a large number

It's 24% of the 466 who were flagged in the written test that dropped out, which is around 115. It is around 10x more than 12 but it's also a very small percentage of those in the state that are on welfare.

Salt Lake City, UT

Here's the math on it.
4,730 take the written test.
466 flagged to take the drug test. 24% of these drop out. Of the other 76% 12 failed it.

So out of 4,730 we get 12 + .24*466 = 124 failing or dropping out for whatever reason.

Out of 4,730 people 124 is 2.6% of people.

Salt Lake City, UT

Likewise in Florida based on numbers in this article 108 out of 4000 testing positive is also a bit over 2%, basically the same rate as Utah.

Michael Matthews
Omaha, NE

It is foolish to assume that all 24% who failed to take the test did so because they were drug users. But it is also foolish to believe that 24% of the people who needed or wanted the extra money for food did not do so because of drug issues. 24% is a huge percentage. It is very likely, in my opinion, that many of these who failed to come back did so because they knew they were not clean. They may have even feared arrest.

What a great program! I live in a very poor and welfare heavy area. Those who use the system and then just sit around doing drugs, being lazy, etc... are so miserable. I hope that this will encourage them to try to get jobs and straighten up. Maybe the money saved can be put toward drug treatment programs.

Salt Lake City, UT

From the article:
"After 466 showed a likelihood of drug use, they were given drug tests at a total cost of more than $25,000"

That's around 50 dollars per test, not 5. You used the full 4000+ to get the 5 dollars but all except the 466 only took the written test.

Salt Lake City, UT

atl34 and to all reading this,

I totally goofed on the math. I am so sorry.

atl34, you are correct. It is about $53.65 per test.

Also, my 99.75% pass rate should be 97.4%, based on 466 actual tests done.

Again, my apologies for the incorrect math on my previous posts.

Addended commentary:

At over $50 per test, it sounds like a certified lab was probably used. That eliminates false negatives, if lab was used for every test.

If the protocol was to use a quick-test, and only certify the potential positives at a lab, then false negatives are still a real possibility, especially with synthetic urine and other methods of cheating.

At over $50 per test I would hope that the collectors are trained and certified, and being extremely observant with urine collection. Otherwise cheating on a urine drug test is not that difficult.

A 97.4% pass rate is still very high compared to the pass rate in the general population. Something seems a little off here.

To the author: again, more detail on the types of testing, and the collection protocols and processes would have been a nice addition to this article.

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

No, ATL134, you are not looking at the right math. I looked at a report called "TANF Benefits Fell Further in 2011 and Are Worth Much Less Than in 1996 in Most States" (hardly a clarion call for conservatives), and the article stated that welfare benefits for a one bread winner three member family in Utah is a few dollars shy of $500. So the if the Utah study cost $25,000, then the money save is 12 recipients x 12 months x 50 (dollars per month per recipient) = $72,000

So subtract the $25,000 cost from $72,000 savings, and you save the state of Utah $47,000. Oh, but wait, THERE'S MORE!!

Let's make the very reasonable assumption that 115 that dropped out, also lost their "benefits".
12 x 115 x $500 = $690,000

$690,000 + $47,000 = $737,000

So this exercise saved the state of Utah almost 3/4 of a million dollars. That may not be much money for liberals, but hard working conservatives have to save money. It is patently unfair to threaten us with jail if we don't pay taxes to subsidize drug users.

Taylorsville, UT

Invasion of privacy? That's a laugh, the state and board of education already has hundreds of thousands of amreicans private information and medical records in their clutches for use by law enforcement warrantless investigations.

Forcing people to drug test for financial gains is a right of the state as any state employee must agree to do. None of the 1,135 who refused to take the drug test, no criminal actions have been imposed and no violation of rights, but justifies use of regular testing.

Welfare is conditional program with rules and not a right, 1,135+12 just lost their welfare funds to feed their habit. Cost of testing has saved the taxpayers $68,820,000.00 on 1,147 cases the first year, or $6.8M/yr for 10 years. Still think its not worth the cost of testing the welfare population? The number of $500 welfare entiltments is miniscule compared to the majority of funds exceeding $60,000/yr. Averages are misleading to imply the tax burden numbers are low.

Whether children are involved or not is irrelevant, welfare is not granted to children, its based on parents identification and income as citizens.

salt lake city, ut

The headline of this article is so misleading. Only 12 people on welfare tested positive for drugs. Reading further, we learn that 24% chose not to take the test - why is that?
Why should tax payers help people continue with their drug addiction? Crazy world we live in.

If all 24% tested positive for drug usage, that would be 1/4 of the people receiving assistance have a drug problem and our welfare program is helping them to stay that way. The money would be better used in helping them overcome their addictions instead of supporting their habits.

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