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Texas lawmakers call for drug testing for welfare recipients

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Texas Governor Rick Perry was Wednesday joined by Sen. Tommy Williams, Rep. Brandon Creighton and Sen. Jane Nelson in his call to mandate drug testing for welfare applicants. Sen. Nelson has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session which denies financial benefits for a family for 12 months if the applicant fails a drug test. A person denied can reapply for financial assistance six months after the drug test was administered if he or she completed or are enrolled in a drug treatment program. It is ,however, unclear who will pay for the treatment.

" Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse", Gov. Perry said. "Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can't go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine.

Still, although it seems logical to not subsidize drug use with tax dollars, the societal cost for not helping drug abusers is mounting. According to the U.S Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center the estimated economic cost of illicit drug use in the U.S for 2007 was more than $193 billion. That includes direct and indirect public cost related to crime and the criminal justice system ($61.4 billion), health and healthcare ($ 11.4 billion), and loss of productivity ($120.3 billion).

And it is the huge cost for the society as a whole that has made Sweden, for example, to make it a universal right for drug abusers to receive treatment on the taxpayers dime.

" The welfare agency is obliged to help the drug abuser with treatment, and can not deny applicants benefits if they decide to not receive or continue in a drug treatment program ", says Marie Björkman, an Administrator with the City of Täby, a wealthy Stockholm suburb.

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