Providing Mental Health Services to TANF Recipients: Program Design Choices and Implementation Challenges in Four States. Targeted Short-Term Mental Health Counseling Services


The study states provide two types of short-term mental health counseling services to TANF recipients through the welfare system   crisis intervention and short-term employment-focused counseling. Crisis intervention services are typically and more easily provided when a mental health clinician is co-located, and therefore readily available, in local welfare and employment service offices. Crisis intervention services are offered in the welfare office in all of the study states except Florida. These services are provided when a client is extremely emotional (e.g., crying, angry, etc.) or when a client has told mental health or employment staff of a plan to harm themselves or others. The goal of crisis intervention is to stabilize a client and link him or her to appropriate services (such as hospitalization or a crisis unit at a local mental health agency).

Utah and Tennessee hire or contract with licensed mental health professionals to provide short-term mental health therapy to welfare recipients. On average, short-term therapy consists of 6 to 10 sessions and may be provided individually or in groups. In general, the therapy is employment-focused and is designed around addressing barriers to employment. Those with long-term mental health needs are referred to a Medicaid provider.

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