Similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, FoodShare Wisconsin aims at improving the health of individuals belonging to low-income families and is considering implementing drug testing.

According to its official website, FoodShare Wisconsin is for “people of all ages who have a job but have low incomes, are living on small or fixed income, have lost their job, retired or are disabled and not able to work.”

Division Administrator at Dane County Department of Human Services Nikia Morton elaborated on the definition in an email.

FoodShare helps people with limited income purchase the food they need for good health and can be very helpful for eligible students at [the University of Wisconsin] campus who are trying to manage tight budgets,” Morton said.

According to the official DHS website, FoodShare payment benefits reached over $800 million and impacted over 800,000 “unduplicated individuals” in 2018. It also stated that in Dane County, the current monthly average until Sept. 2019 was $4,114,324, and a total of over $37 million has been spent on FoodShare benefits coverage.

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Morton added that the drug screen requirements for “childless adult FoodShare recipients” were scheduled to be implemented starting Oct. 1. But DHS has not done this yet. 

“Dane County is still awaiting formal direction from the State DHS at this time, but our preliminary understanding is that those who refuse to answer the drug use questions will be denied eligibility,” Morton added. “Using drugs doesn’t appear to affect eligibility as long as someone agrees to and complies with any treatment that might be appropriate, but people do need to answer the drug use screening question that will be asked in order to stay on FoodShare.”

An article from The Cap Times said Dane County Department of Human Services had neither listed drugs that individuals would be tested for nor specified any “appropriate” treatment policies with which individuals using drugs would have to comply.

According to a Forbes article, cannabidiol users can test positive in urine drug tests. With the recent rise in CBD products, the consequences of the new DHS policy on CBD users is unclear.

“We are working closely with the State’s Department of Health Services (DHS) on implementation of drug screening,” Morton wrote in the email. “Preliminary information suggests that implementation of the new rules will start on February 1st. At that time, people will start to be asked about a range of health behaviors including drug use. The information provided in response to those questions can be used to lower monthly premiums or to refer people to treatment if necessary. Anyone being asked to comply with the new policies will be sent letters with more specific information and instruction and should follow those directions carefully, or call the call center and ask for help.”

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According to The Cap Times, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the two-year budget plan to reduce funding for implementing the drug-testing policies in Wisconsin. The drug policies had been introduced during the Republican former Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure and were initially meant for participants of Wisconsin’s Employment and Training Program.

In 2018,  The Associated Press had emails between the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that implied both were considering implementing drug-testing policies.

UW junior Holly Dooge said that, while she understands the interest in drug-testing, the assumption that those receiving benefits are also drug users can be harmful.

“I can see why people are interested in implementing the drug testing,” Dooge said. “But at the same time, I think it’s kind of a prejudice against the people who are applying just because they’re assuming that all of them are doing drugs.”

Dooge said there needs to be a way to check that individuals using FoodShare benefits are not siphoning off the money for other purposes, drugs included, but blanket drug testing might not be the right answer.