Getting Off Drugs and Alcohol, Getting Back to Work

Research on state policies and practices addressing substance abuse among welfare recipients

Investigators at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, in conjunction with the American Public Human Services Association, examined how states addressed substance abuse treatment and prevention as they implemented reforms in their welfare programs.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see Program Results).

Key Findings: Investigators reported their findings in a report, Building Bridges: States Respond to Substance Abuse and Welfare Reform:

  • State officials and staff did undertake innovative strategies for responding to substance abuse within their welfare reform programs, but there were also many areas for improvement.
  • Five key factors facilitate or inhibit state ability to address substance abuse in welfare reform:
    • Collaboration among agencies.
    • Support from political and legislative officials.
    • Capacity of organizations to meet new challenges.
    • Availability of funds and resources.
    • Control and participation at the local level.

Key Conclusions:

  • The investigators concluded that both welfare reform and recovery from substance abuse will be more successful if states:
    • Implement policies and practices to identify substance abuse early.
    • Offer comprehensive assessment and case management.
    • Allocate adequate funding for treatment.
    • Expand the scope of services and customize them to the needs of individuals.
    • Use better information technology systems.
    • Employ mechanisms that more specifically and strategically build bridges between treatment and work.

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