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


The welfare/employment services local offices are not the only avenue through which clients are informed about mental health services. Some programs use extensive community outreach campaigns as well. Fliers, pamphlets, and formal and informal presentations are part of this "social marketing" effort. Florida and Tennessee's outreach efforts are noteworthy.

In Florida, outreach workers are the link between welfare clients and the mental health service delivery system. These individuals, who have at least a bachelor's degree, are employed by the contracted mental health and substance abuse treatment providers who screen clients and link them to services within their agency or with another contracted service provider. Outreach workers regularly visit community service providers (such as health clinics, day-care centers, food stamp offices, homeless shelters, and other agencies), leaving brochures about the program and talking with staff at these organizations. Outreach workers may be co-located in the welfare office or in other agencies, such as the local Head Start program and the health clinic.

In Tennessee, the program director, district coordinators, and welfare administrators have developed an intense and widespread social marketing effort. Tennessee's social marketing effort mostly consists of presentations and training sessions for welfare staff and other community partners, such as vocational rehabilitation, and education and training providers. The purpose of these efforts is to educate employment case managers and other agency workers who serve TANF recipients about the mission, goals, and successes of the Family Services Counseling program. According to the program director, the intense social marketing campaign not only informs people about the services, but also creates a sense of pride and enthusiasm among program staff members about providing these services.

The advantages of community outreach are that it informs service providers outside of the welfare office about mental health services and helps to cultivate collaborative relationships between agencies. For states that base eligibility for mental health services on income as well as TANF receipt, community outreach helps to identify low-income families who are at risk for TANF involvement. The drawback to this approach is that it is time-consuming and resource-intensive.


6.  How broadly clients are screened varies by local office.

7.  One specialist has combined mental health and substance abuse responsibilities.

8.  The name of the CAGE test comes from an acronym of first letters from questions used in the instrument. For example, the first letter "C" comes from the question, "have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your using/doing?"

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