Providing Mental Health Services to TANF Recipients: Program Design Choices and Implementation Challenges in Four States. Adults on TANF

08/01/2001

All of the study states provide mental health services to adult TANF recipients. However, Oregon was the only state to provide mental health services only to adults receiving TANF. The other states expanded eligibility by continuing mental health services for some period after the TANF case closed by providing services to children in the household or by defining eligibility using income criteria rather than TANF receipt. The decision to restrict eligibility to adults on TANF reflects primarily resource constraints, but it also reflects the goals of the program. In Oregon, the primary goal is to identify clients in need of services and link them with resources in the community. The hope is that by the time clients leave assistance, they will be solidly connected with mental health providers who can provide ongoing services that are not tied to their TANF eligibility. In addition, providing mental health services to the head-of-household on TANF reflects Oregon's belief in the importance of helping the primary breadwinner become employed. In Multnomah County (which includes Portland), mental health staff already carried high caseloads. Families outside of TANF could only have been served at the expense of TANF recipients or by allocating additional funds to the program.

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