COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Ohio could once again be looking to drug test adults seeking welfare. The idea was introduced in the last General Assembly by State Sen. Tim Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican, but it didn't get to the governor's desk.
Schaffer's office confirmed that the bill, which is to be released on Wednesday, will be similar to previous versions. Under the past proposal, those applying for state assistance would have to pay for drug tests, but would be reimbursed when the test comes back negative. Those who test positive would have to complete a treatment program before being able to re-apply.
"It's targeting low income people unfairly and unfortunately in recent years that's a growing trend where we demonize the poor," said Eugene King, director of the Ohio Poverty Law Program.
He believes charging applicants for the drug tests up front is basically an application fee and one that many can't afford.
"If you then say it's going to say it's going to cost you $50 bucks in order to apply then you've just said to them 'you cannot apply,'" said King.
Schaffer has said in the past that taxpayers should not be subsidizing illegal drug use, but King says if that's the thinking then anyone getting any money from the government should be subject to drug testing as well.
Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Directors Association, says for him it's all about how the state deals with positive drug tests.
Potts says there's no question that some on public assistance are dealing with drug abuse, but he doesn't believe it's a widespread problem.
"We do know that there's a substance abuse problem out there. What we don't know is the magnitude," he said.
There's no data on drug problems among those getting government assistance, largely because of a lack of drug testing, but Potts says they are seeing more child welfare cases related to parents that have heroin problems.
"Not doing anything about it fails everybody," he said.
Many of those getting public assistance also get training to help them find a job. Potts says it does no one any good if those people then go and fail an employer's drug test.
"It adversely affects their ability to become employed. It also adversely affects our relationship with the community. It affects our relationship with employers," Potts said.
He says if they know right from the beginning that someone has a drug problem they can help address it.
"I've always contended that when it comes to this issue I would rather know what we're dealing with than not know what we're dealing with," he said.