Most mental health workers, regardless of where they work, indicated that being co-located in the welfare office is the ideal arrangement for providing mental health services. Tennessee and some offices in Utah, Oregon, and Florida co-locate mental health staff in the local welfare office. Providing mental health services in the welfare office by co-locating mental health staff has several advantages:
- Mental health staff are more integrated into the employment service delivery system. According to mental health workers, co-location helps them build a relationship with employment staff, which tends to increase the number of referrals to mental health services.
- Client access to mental health services is improved, and a direct link is created for referring clients to the program. Providing mental health services in the welfare office gives clients direct access to mental health staff because they do not have to rely exclusively on employment case managers to refer them to mental health services (especially in offices where the mental health counselor participates in orientation).
- Fewer clients may drop out of mental health treatment. Providing mental health services at the local welfare office may increase the likelihood that clients continue in treatment, especially when clients regularly attend job search workshops or other activities at the welfare office.
- Mental health counselors become an immediate resource for employment staff. The closer proximity of the two types of staff gives mental health counselors an opportunity to educate employment staff about how to handle clients with mental health conditions, to participate in agency meetings and case staffings, and to deal readily with client crises.
The primary challenge in providing mental health services in the welfare office is finding enough office space in which mental health counselors can meet privately with clients.