Contra Costa Substance Abuse Test Ruled Illegal

Contra Costa Fails Legal Test

Wednesday, August 6, 1997 · Page A16 ©1997
San Francisco Chronicle

CONTRA COSTA County’s five-year experiment with using a personality
test to screen welfare applicants for drug and alcohol addiction has come
to an end. And not a moment too soon.

The idea that a true-false personality test can somehow determine who
is and is not taking drugs is absurd. This one, known as the Substance
Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory, probes the inner recesses of the mind
with questions like, “Some crooks are so clever that I hope they get
away with what they’ve done.”

It turns out this line of questioning was a little too subtle. A joint
study by the county and an expert for the plaintiffs found that 44
percent of those identified as chemically dependent did not have a
current abuse problem. And 24 percent of applicants classified as
drug-free did have an abuse problem.

U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney this week ordered the county to
stop the personality testing because it violates the Americans with
Disabilities Act.

The supervisors should have stopped using the test long ago. It
inappropriately subjects applicants to questions about highly personal
views, including religion.

Besides, it didn’t work.

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