States Consider Drug Test Requirement For Benefits
NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. As the economy leaves more people in need of government benefits, the process could get tougher. Three-dozen states are considering proposals to require a drug test before applicants can qualify for programs like welfare, unemployment assistance and job training.
Laws have already passed in Arizona, Indiana and Missouri - and in Florida, where the ACLU filed a lawsuit. Those in favor of testing say such measures help ensure that public money isn't used to subsidize drug habits and saves the taxpayer money. Opponents argue that tests perpetuate stereotypes and violate constitutional rights.
Lots of people are subject to routine drug tests: airline pilots, some truck drivers, members of the military, and welfare recipients in Florida. If you're among them, how much of a burden is it? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, actor Alan Cumming joins us to talk about his role on the CBS hit drama "The Good Wife." But first, drug tests for benefits. Mike Bender is the state Capitol reporter for the Tennessee bureau of the - Tallahassee bureau, excuse me, of the St. Petersburg Times, and he joins us from member station WFSU in Tallahassee. Nice to have you with us.
MIKE BENDER: Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: And in Florida, as I understand it, this law is specifically targeted on drug-testing those who apply for welfare.
BENDER: That's right. A new requirement in Florida makes drug-testing a - requires a drug test before you get cash assistance from the state. You have to - go ahead.
CONAN: Any idea how effective it's been? And Governor Scott said it was going to save money. Has that transpired?
BENDER: Well, those results are still out. Anywhere between 1 percent and 2 and a half percent of applicants are testing positive, which is quite a bit less than about 8 percent of the general population, studies show. There is some other data that shows applications have dropped since this law has been passed.
CONAN: So there could have been some effect, but it's hard to measure, and true results aren't in yet. Now as I understand it, those who apply for welfare have to pay for their own drug test, but if they test negative, the state pays them back.
BENDER: That's right, in fact, so this program actually could cost the state money. If these tests are posi - are negative, excuse me, the state will reimburse the applications and, you know, if it's half of a percent, this may, you know, cost the state some money to do.
CONAN: Now, what about - as we heard a clip of the governor earlier, he's saying these welfare payments are for children. We don't want them used to subsidize their drug habits, but what about the children if their mother or father is cut off?
BENDER: Well, it is about the children, now, for Governor Scott. It used to be about the budget, and now that it doesn't look like those savings are going to be quite as clear, it's about the children. And, you know, it's hard to argue that the state should be giving cash assistance to families where drug use is involved.
CONAN: Yet, so what do the children do if their parent is ineligible for welfare payments because they tested positive?
BENDER: Sure, if you fail a drug test, you're banned for six months. If you fail a second time, you're banned for two years. There is a provision that lets parents essentially name a guardian who he or she would go and have to pass his or her own drug test, and then the state would give them the money to provide for the children.
CONAN: But obviously, that's a burden as well. Some people might not be able to go through with that.
BENDER: That's right.
CONAN: Now, how are Floridians reacting to this?
BENDER: Floridians love this. It's one of the ironies, early ironies here of Governor Scott's administration. He's had a tough go of things since winning election and taking off, as the latest Quinnipiac poll a couple weeks ago shows, 35 - only 35 percent support Scott's policies. Forty-one percent say the state budget, Scott's main issue, is unfair to them. And only 37 percent say they approve of Scott's job performance so far.
One of the bright spots has been this drug-testing law. That same poll shows 71 percent of Floridians support the law, including 90 percent of Republicans. Governor Scott issued an executive order right when he took office. to force state workers to undergo drug tests. That was met with similar applause from the state. An ACLU lawsuit against that order on state workers has forced the governor to pare that program back quite a bit.
CONAN: And the ACLU filed suit against the screening for welfare applicants as well, based on - I assume - the Fourth Amendment.
BENDER: That's right. They say it's an illegal government search. There was a Michigan case in 2000, where the federal government struck down a similar program, saying the state couldn't randomly test, you know, welfare recipients without a suspicion of drug use.
So I mentioned some of Scott's approval ratings. He's been a controversial governor, and that's showed up in the courtrooms as well. This was the 10th lawsuit in less than 10 months filed against Scott or his administration based on policies he pushed as governor. And this one may have the best chance of winning.
CONAN: And where is it at this moment, in federal court?
BENDER: It is. It's in federal court in Miami. It's still in the early stages of being argued. You know, they're discussing exactly what they're going to argue about here.
CONAN: We've also heard descriptions, not merely illegal search and seizure, but that this stereotypes those people who are being screened. It assumes that everybody applying for welfare has a drug problem.
BENDER: That's right and you know, I saw it personally on the campaign trail, where some folks came up to Scott at events, black men and women, and confronted him directly about this issue. And to his credit, he stood there and answered their questions. But there is a certain stereotype that comes along with it.
You know, and I should mention that these issues came up back in 1998, when the state tried this. They ran a pilot program at that point, the state legislature approved a pilot program, and 4 percent of welfare recipients tested positive. It ended up costing the state almost $3 million, and they canned the program.
CONAN: Mike Bender, thanks very much for your time today, appreciate it.
BENDER: All right, thank you.
CONAN: Mike Bender, state Capitol reporter for the Tallahassee bureau for the St. Petersburg Times, with us from our member station WFSU, there in Tallahassee. If you are routinely screened for drug use, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. How much of a burden is it? Ryan's(ph) on the line, calling us from Sioux City.
CONAN: Ryan, you're on the air, go ahead please.
RYAN: Yeah, for my getting a job, I had to go through a drug screen, a physical and then a lottery where randomly, I can be picked every month to possibly go have to take a drug test.
CONAN: And what's your job?
RYAN: I'm a warehouse man. I drive a forklift. I work in a warehouse.
CONAN: And did they say why you needed to submit to a drug test?
RYAN: No, that's just part of the requirements. If you want the job, that's just what you need to do.
CONAN: And is it a big deal?
RYAN: No, it's really easy to beat the drug test: You just don't do the drugs.
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CONAN: I get you, Ryan, but it's not a burden, you don't think, it's not a violation of your privacy?
RYAN: No, I've got nothing to hide. I've got nothing to worry about, you know, and I understand addiction. You know, I'm a recovering alcoholic but, you know, that shouldn't stand in my way - of my job or, you know, if you need benefits, if you need a job, then jump through the hoops and get it.
CONAN: Ryan, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it. Joining us now from his office in Lancaster, Kentucky, is Kentucky State Representative Lonnie Napier. He serves on the House Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue and re-filed a bill that, if passed, would require drug and substance screening for any adults in Kentucky receiving public assistance, and it's nice to have you with us today.
State Representative LONNIE NAPIER: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.
CONAN: And I understand your law differs in some important respects to the Florida law.
NAPIER: My - it's probably a little bit different. Now, one of the things that we're going to do about the screening program is we're going to allow - use the option of having a questionnaire if the caseworker suspects that you could be on drugs.
Now, it says random drug-testing, that doesn't mean that everybody's going to be tested. It's only somebody they suspect that might be on drugs, and then they're going to do a questionnaire. And that means that they may not have to be urine tested - or a blood test. We think that sometimes, this test works better. Between 89 and 94 percent of these questionnaire tests are effective.
CONAN: And what happens if somebody doesn't pass?
NAPIER: If somebody doesn't test, then they cannot - if they refuse to be tested, then they cannot get their public assistance.
CONAN: And if they fail the test?
NAPIER: If they fail the test, I'm going to - my bill will give them 60 days to come clean, or get in a rehab place or a drug program. And during that 60 days, they will continue to receive the food stamps. And if they come back and they test positive again, then I'll give them another 14 days, I believe it is. And then after that, if they come back positive, then they will lose their public assistance.
But the children in the home will not lose their public assistance. Someone will be designated to see that the children's food stamps are used properly - or the public assistance.
CONAN: And what, then, happens to the parent or guardian, the original person who would be refused public assistance? Are they thrown out of public housing, just put on the street?
NAPIER: If they refuse to come clean, then they lose their public assistance. They have nothing to worry about. What I'm trying to do with this bill is this: I'm trying to get people off the drugs. I don't think children should be raised in a home where drugs, illegal drugs are being used.
And here is the situation, that you have a food-stamp card - and let me first say, I'm a very compassionate person. I believe in helping people that need to be helped. However, if you are using illegal drugs or, say if you go to the grocery store and buy a couple hundred dollars' worth of good groceries, and somebody's waiting in the parking lot to give you $50 for those groceries so you can take that money and buy illegal drugs, the children, in lots of cases, are not receiving the benefits of the public assistance. And this is wrong.
If a person has to go to get a job at the hospital or go get a - if the county road department here or the state highway people have to be drug-tested, then why shouldn't other people be subject to being questioned about it if you suspect that they're on drugs?
CONAN: Stay with us if you would, Representative Napier. We're talking about states' requirements that welfare recipients, or people who want to receive other benefits, need to pass a drug test first. Stay with us, and we'll be talking with former drug czar General Barry McCaffrey in just a moment. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. More than 45 million Americans received federal food help this summer through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as food stamps. In Florida, if you receive cash assistance through welfare, you need to get drug-tested and pay for your own test. Similar programs have been proposed across the country.
However, the ACLU calls the requirement an unreasonable search and seizure. Former U.S. drug czar General Barry McCaffrey says the policy makes no sense, and he'll explain why in just a moment. If you undergo routine drug-testing, how big a burden is it - 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Also with us is State Representative Lonnie Napier, a Republican in Kentucky who's proposed a bill to require random drug-testing of those who fail a questionnaire and are suspected of drug use for their welfare payments in that state - 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com.
General McCaffrey joins us here in Studio 3A and sir, nice to have you back on the program.
BARRY MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: And I know you're opposed to this policy. We've heard a couple of explanations - it might save the state money, these are hard times. Also, as Representative Napier was saying, he proposes this as part of an attempt to get people off drugs.
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, first of all, I thought Representative Napier expressed his viewpoint in a very balanced, sensible manner. Let me sort of put it in context, though. There's 307 million of us that live in America. Overwhelmingly, we don't abuse drugs or alcohol.
There's - pick a number you believe. I'd say there's probably 23 million of us who do have a chronic substance-abuse problem, and we're a disaster to America. We fill the prisons because of our criminal contact. We're in the emergency rooms. We're on welfare because we can't work. Everyone's abandoned us. We're arrested 20, 30 times a year for felony offenses: robbery, male street prostitution...
It's a stigmatized population, and so there's two aspects of this issue that I think are relevant. One is the legal aspects. I start off saying unless you're in the armed forces or working in a nuclear power plant or a police officer, I would rather save resources and test only when there's evidence of a problem.
CONAN: So public safety issues: airline pilots, truck drivers, that sort of thing.
MCCAFFREY: Yeah, if you've got an argument that says come on, you're a staff sergeant in a combat unit, and we need you to be drug-free, then of course you can go that route, and we do. I've been drug-tested for years. I was in the military. And also when I was the national drug policy director.
Now, I think the other part, though, is the policy issue on dealing with chronic drug abuse. First of all, when you look at welfare recipients, they are not more likely than the general population to be drug users. You want to see a very high drug-using population, it's health professionals: anesthesiologists, ICU nurses. And, I might add, the medical community is extremely resistant to drug-testing in the medical community.
Your eye surgeon, who might be diverting oxycontin or Percocet or Percodan, doesn't want to get drug-tested. That's a separate issue. But I just pose that because I think when you're talking welfare recipients, you know, we've got a lot of Americans out of work; we're talking 14 million people. And should it be a prerequisite for a public program, whose purpose is putting a floor under America's unemployed, to be drug-tested? And I would argue that chances are not.
Now secondly, if you are using drugs, chronically using drugs - you know, I'm part of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals' Board of Directors. We got - we're pushing for 3,000-plus drug courts. So if you're chronically addicted, you're going to end up behind bars. We're going to try and get you into a program - voluntary, I might add - where you'll agree to be drug-tested, where you agree to get into treatment.
I think these programs must tie drug-testing to science-based treatment, and that's what's lacking in the Florida program.
CONAN: Representative Napier, I wanted to give you a chance to respond.
NAPIER: OK, well, thank you. I'm telling you that when I drafted this bill over a year ago - then the state of Florida and Missouri and all the other states came on board - in Kentucky here, 87 percent of the people supports this program. What - our jails are completely full, like the gentleman said there.
It's costing the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. People, some people in Kentucky thought the bill passed; however, it did not. We have 56 sponsors on the bill, including the speaker of the House. I'm a Republican; he's a Democrat. But we did not get it out of committee.
We expect to pass the bill this time. However, people - they thought that the bill passed, and a lot of - I've been told by some of the food-stamp places in Kentucky that the requests have gone down because they're afraid that they might be asked some questions if they take the drugs.
Now see, mine's different. It's not going to cost that much money to fill out a paper and ask a few questions, and - but only thing that I'm trying to do - I love people. Our younger generation, we've got a bad situation in this country. This probably needs to be a federal law, still state by state. Like the gentleman said before, we've got an epidemic. And if we don't change and get our younger generation started on the right track - and I know it's all ages, I know that - but kids don't need to be raised in this kind of atmosphere.
If we can just get a few families off from drugs, it'll be worth what I'm doing.
CONAN: And I hear what you're saying, but what if somebody is intimidated against applying for welfare? They have a couple of kids, they're not going to get any help whatsoever.
NAPIER: OK, listen. If I go down here and get a job, I have to be drug-tested. Am I - I don't - I'm not against that. I know that comes with it. You know if you work for the state of Kentucky, you have to be drug-tested. That's the taxpayers' money, and that's the taxpayers' money down at the food stamp office or, you know, a Medicaid recipient. And you don't have a problem. If you're clean, you don't have to be worried about it.
CONAN: General McCaffrey, and then we'll get some people on the line.
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, again, I think the representative poses his argument pretty sensibly. Again, most of us don't abuse drugs or alcohol. The ones who do - and it's a significant part of the population; let's say it's 7 percent of us - are past-month, chronic drug users. And that population has to get into treatment.
They'll do immense damage to you, $48,000 a year, if you leave them alone. If you put them into the drug-court system, it may be $8,000 a year. So I think it's legitimate for society to say look, you've caused us a problem, we arrested you for drunk driving, we now insist that you go into the drug-court system, and we're going to drug-test you.
I don't think that having a drug-testing program that's a bar to entry to welfare or food stamps makes sense where you don't tie it to effective drug treatment. And even then, I'd want to see some probability that you exhibited drug behavior before I test you.
NAPIER: Now, my bill does say that you have to go to a program.
MCCAFFREY: But you've got to fund it now.
NAPIER: We've already got a lot of programs in the state of Kentucky. My bill says we'll give you a list of the - it's better to pay that than pay $24,000 a year in jail to keep somebody.
MCCAFFREY: Absolutely, we're on the same sheet of music.
CONAN: You can get them off the drugs, wouldn't that be wonderful if we could save a family?
MCCAFFREY: Yeah, exactly.
CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. If you're routinely tested for drugs, how much of a burden is it? Let's go next to Joseph(ph), and Joseph's on the line from St. Louis.
JOSEPH: Hi there. Yeah, thanks, Neal. I've been tested before at my job, and I've been a partaker of marijuana for a number of years. I just - I'm troubled by the fact there's no distinction between which drugs we're talking about. If we're talking about drunk driving, and then going to drug court and getting drug- tested, it seems kind of nonsensical.
CONAN: No, I think on drunk driving, you're tested for alcohol.
JOSEPH: Well, OK, then if you're just tested for alcohol, I can see the relevance there. But, you know, with the Occupy Wall Street protests, we're talking about class warfare, and this is class warfare, to me, in the most basic sense. You're talking about people that maybe don't have health insurance, can't afford prescription drugs, might be self-medicating, and we're going to go after these people and, you know, cut them off at the knees? You know, it just doesn't ring Americanism to me.
And I've been a recipient of federal aid in the past, and I am no longer, and had I been subject to drug tests at the time, I might not have gotten the assistance to my family that I needed.
CONAN: All right, Joseph, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it. And let me put part of his question to you, Representative Napier, and that is if - does your program test for alcohol and alcoholism?
NAPIER: No, I don't think the test is for alcohol, but I'm not opposed to that, and also I'd like to say this: I'm considering putting an amendment to this bill and saying that all members of the General Assembly be drug-tested.
CONAN: They're not currently?
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CONAN: Let's see if we could go next to Marie(ph), and Marie is on the line from Jacksonville.
CONAN: Hi there.
MARIE: Yes. Hi. I might be paranoid but I believe Rick Scott, and I don't know about this other guy that you have on there, but they seems to go after - they're trying to rob the government blind at the expense of the poorest of the poor. And Rick Scott, you know, he had this Solantic - those health care emergency, and all through Florida is pain clinics for drugs, and they are behind this. They're behind the private prisons to bleed that the government blind.
MARIE: This is just another one of those sadistic schemes, as far I'm concerned, and I'm sorry to be like this but...
CONAN: I understand. Are you drug-tested?
NAPIER: Who, me?
CONAN: No. I was talking to Marie.
MARIE: Yes? What was that again?
CONAN: Do you get drug-tested?
MARIE: I was - did you say did I protest?
CONAN: No, no, no. Do you get drug-tested?
MARIE: Well, I did when I worked as a substitute teacher. The school district paid for it. And then I had to go help my mother, God rest her soul. And when I came back, you had to re-apply all over again through Kelly Services, and you had to pay for the drug-testing yourself, and the background checks and the whole nine yards, which is - I didn't mind; I could afford it. But if I couldn't afford it, it would be a big problem. I have no problem with drug-testing, employees paying for the drug-testing. But to go to welfare, the poorest of the poor - and they're worried about the kids? What about all the cuts they make to the schools and the police and the fire? The kids are suffering there. They use this as a - I mean, I'm sorry. They try to come across compassionate and as far as I'm concerned, they're sadistic.
CONAN: Well, Marie...
MARIE: You don't see them going after the corporations for oil subsidies, corporate welfare. No. They go after the people who...
CONAN: Marie, you're getting pretty far afield.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the phone call. We appreciate it. We're talking about programs proposed now in three-dozen states. Some of it, in places, it's law already - that require drug testing for various kinds of government benefits. In Florida, it's welfare. We're talking with Representative Louie Napier in Kentucky, where he proposes a law to do something like that; other benefits that would require drug-testing include public housing, unemployment, job training, that sort of thing. Also with us is retired General Barry McCaffrey, former White House drug policy coordinator, known as the drug czar. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
I'm sorry, Representative. Napier. You wanted to say something?
NAPIER: Yeah. Some people - a lot of people use the excuse that it's unconstitutional. Now, my bill says if you suspect somebody to be on drugs, then you are allowed to question that person. Now, I think if you just went in and tested every individual that came in without any suspicion whatsoever, that's a gray area there, but I think...
CONAN: That's the situation in Florida, and it's being tested in federal courts even as we speak.
NAPIER: Does their bill have a written questionnaire and answers to questions?
CONAN: And as I believe, it does not. It's...
NAPIER: OK. I think mine will stand the test.
CONAN: All right. Let's go next to David, David with us from Peoria.
CONAN: Hi. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVID: I'm a truck driver, and I am randomly drug-tested occasionally. I was also subject to random testing when I was in the military several years ago. It's not a particularly large burden on anyone. I feel sorry more for the testers than testees, but it's also not a particularly good deterrent. I have friends who were in the military for 30 years, stoned out of their minds half the time, and randomly drug-tested. It didn't slow them down any.
NAPIER: Let me just...
DAVID: They're going to do what they're going to do. I don't think a program like this really makes a difference. It looks good on paper, and it's great political capital, but it's not particularly effective.
NAPIER: Let me say this. The people across this country - is very upset. Jobs are scarce, and they are sick and tired of seeing their tax dollar being spent to subsidize an illegal drug program, and they're tired of it. And it's time that we should try to protect the taxpayer, and to help get people off the drugs.
DAVID: That's more of a political soundbite than a reality.
NAPIER: Excuse me?
DAVID: That doesn't - that's not really a rampant problem.
CONAN: David, I wanted to get General McCaffrey to respond as well. And the - like David, our caller, the person bringing the complaint in Florida is a Navy veteran, a military veteran, saying he needs temporary assistance, and this is an unconstitutional bar to that. A lot of the people who are applying for this are people just out of the military.
MCCAFFREY: Well, yeah, exactly. Look, we had 2.5 million of our troops serve in combat. When they come home, many of them deal with alcohol in particular. Probably some 7 percent of them have a chronic alcohol problem for at least some period of time when they return. I think the other thing you can take into account, you look at a program like this - to stigmatize the nature of the population, I underscore most of us don't use drugs; most of it don't abuse alcohol. But the poly-drug abusers who do are not concentrated among the welfare recipients.
And oh, by the way, if you are a chronic alcohol and heroin addict, we're going to pick up on you through a variety of means. You're going to get arrested. You're going to show up in the emergency room. You're going to be applying for welfare assistance. There's a lot of ways in which we'll detect this. And that population - the prime objective of social policy is get them into rehabilitation and use coercion when you do it, and try and save their lives. So I'm for drug - effective, science-based drug and alcohol treatment to include with a welfare system. You just don't want to be blanket-testing large populations.
And by the way, it is a burden to be drug-tested. A lot - particularly, a lot of women I've seen are humiliated by the process, and there's sort of a presumption that you must be a suspect lot. I didn't feel that way as a soldier. I wouldn't if I was a truck driver on the highway, but I darn sure might feel that way if I was applying for welfare because I was out of work.
CONAN: We're going to take a few more calls on this question. I hope, Representative Napier, you can stay with us?
CONAN: OK. And General McCaffrey is here with us in Studio 3A. We're also going to speak with actor Alan Cumming about his part in "The Good Wife," so stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: In a moment, we'll speak with actor Alan Cumming, but we want to wrap up our conversation on proposed testing. In some states, it's already a law. In some states, it's proposed testing for - drug-testing for recipients of welfare and other government-benefits programs to receive assistance. And our guests are Representative Lonnie Napier, who's with us from Kentucky, where he has proposed a bill to do just that. And also with us, former drug czar, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. He's with us here in Studio 3A. And let's see if we can go next to - this is Jack, and Jack is with us from Charlotte, North Carolina.
JACK: Hey. I just had a quick comment, where - I get tested multiple times per injury rules of my job. And while it's not a huge burden or anything, I kind of - I feel like it's almost a rights issue because they can't really search your house or your car, but somehow it's legal for them to search your bloodstream and to go inside - to look inside your body. It just seems like the epitome of a search by the government.
CONAN: I wonder, Lonnie Napier, the search part of this, did you consider that when writing this bill?
NAPIER: Repeat that question one more time.
CONAN: The caller said it's an invasive search. The government needs a warrant to search your house, but this says you must surrender parts of your body to be searched.
NAPIER: Well, I - OK. I heard that but listen, the House is not working for the taxpayers; you're working for the taxpayers. You're drawing the public assistance from the taxpayers. And I also want to add right now - the other person said there, awhile ago, under my bill, if you agree to go to a rehab, you will continue to draw your food stamps. I am not taking anybody off of food stamps unless you refuse.
CONAN: That other person is General Barry McCaffrey, retired General McCaffrey.
CONAN: As you look at this, you say the process is invasive. It did have a - despite what our caller said; I don't know when he served in the Army - but it did have a dramatic impact on the United States Army when drug-testing was imposed.
MCCAFFREY: Oh, sure. It had an enormous amount of good. You know, it was a combination of - we had our sergeants and our young officers said, you can't serve in this military force unless you're drug-free combined, with coercive impact. But there, you're volunteering to be a member of the Armed Forces.
Let me go back at one thing that Representative Napier said - and again, I admire the way he's posed this issue. There is inadequate capacity in this country for drug and alcohol treatment. We've got maybe 24 million of us that are chronically abusing illegal drugs and alcohol, and probably a capacity for a little more than 3 million to get treatment. So we've got a problem. You know...
NAPIER: We do have a problem.
MCCAFFREY: ...if you're out there doing damage to this community, we've got to make sure you can get into a drug-court system. And that means...
MCCAFFREY: ...12-step process, AA, the magic of AA and NA. We've got to get you treatment; otherwise, you will not pull yourself up by your socks. You're going to keep breaking into people's cars.
NAPIER: That's correct.
CONAN: Representative Napier, where does your bill stand right now?
NAPIER: My bill has just been pre-filed, and we go into session in January.
CONAN: Well, we wish you the best of luck, thanks very much.
NAPIER: Well, thank you very much. I must say that I had the - this is a nonpartisan bill. I had the leadership in both parties on my bill the last time, the speaker of the House. We had all kinds of support; 87 percent of the people in this state supports this bill. I'm not trying to hurt anybody. I'm a very compassionate person. I will help you get public assistance if you need it, and I've helped thousands of people, I guess, over a period of 27 years of being in the General Assembly. But there is a - the time has come, illegal drugs don't affect just - it affects all walks of life - rich, poor, middle income. I'm just trying to help get them off of it. If we don't get people off of drugs in the future, this country is going - it's in a bad shape.
CONAN: And we wish you luck with getting your fellow representatives tested as well. Appreciate your time today.
NAPIER: OK. And I'm not opposed to that, and I think I can get that right on the bill.
CONAN: OK. Lonnie Napier, with us there from Kentucky. And General McCaffrey, thanks very much for your time today.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: Former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, with us here in Studio 3A in Washington. Alan Cumming, up next. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.