The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation (PRWORA) Act of 1996 places a premium on cash-assistance recipients’ efforts to work and holds recipients and state programs accountable for increasing self-sufficiency. The work requirements and time limits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) system provide little room for work exemptions and create an incentive to explore the needs of “harder-to-serve” populations—including those with substance abuse problems—so that they, too, may move into work and be assisted on a path toward self-sufficiency. TANF program administrators who hope to meet future work-participation requirements and prevent significant time-limit exemptions may want to start making policy and programmatic choices now to better prepare this population for work in the long run.
This guide provides TANF program administrators and staff with information to help devise a strategy for identifying and addressing the needs of recipients with substance abuse problems. The guide has four sections:
- Section I: Understanding the Substance-Abuse Problem. Discusses the prevalence of substance abuse among welfare recipients and the benefits of addressing these problems in the context of the welfare program.
- Section II: Identifying Welfare Recipients with Substance-Abuse Problems. Presents a series of decision points for developing a process to identify TANF recipients with substance-abuse problems.
- Section III: Treating Substance Abuse. Provides background information on treatment-related issues such as treatment options, outcomes, expectations and service delivery as well as the resources available for treatment.
- Section IV: Integrating Treatment into a Work-Focused Welfare Program. Outlines the policy and programmatic decisions for integrating an approach to treatment into the welfare program and discusses the points to consider when coordinating welfare and treatment services.
Additional organizations and resources that can provide greater detail on the concepts and decisions outlined in this report are described throughout the text and in the resource section in Appendix A. (author introduction)