Providing Mental Health Services to TANF Recipients: Program Design Choices and Implementation Challenges in Four States. Broad Focus on a Variety of Personal and Family Challenges


Tennessee is the only state in this study that provides mental health services as one of several services targeted to hard-to-employ welfare recipients. Family services counselors in Tennessee address mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, learning disabilities, and child behavioral conditions in welfare recipients. According to program administrators, identifying learning disabilities and providing services to address them has been the most difficult challenge for family services counselors.

Program administrators in Tennessee attempt to hire staff with expertise in at least two of the five service areas. In addition, the program director coordinates extensive training in how to identify the various mental health needs and in the types of services available in the community for addressing them. The advantage to this "holistic" approach to service provision may be an increase in the employability of TANF clients to the extent that none of the conditions interfering with employment goes unaddressed. The primary challenge in using this approach is finding staff with expertise in most of the service areas.

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