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


In Florida, more than 100 outreach workers have been stationed throughout the state to screen TANF recipients and other low-income families and to link them with mental health and substance abuse treatment. Typically, outreach workers are bachelor's level staff with training in psychology, social work, or other social service-related fields. Outreach workers inform clients about the social services available to them and community agencies about social services offered.

The drawback to using outreach workers to screen TANF clients is that this creates an additional step in linking clients to services. In addition, the workers may not be professionally trained to handle intense traumatic experiences that may be disclosed to them by clients (such as having been raped, witnessing a murder, or physical or sexual abuse during adulthood or childhood). Outreach workers indicated that when they heard of these kinds of experiences, they quickly referred the clients to licensed mental health professionals.

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