The finding, published in the current Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, adds to an increasing body of evidence that significant numbers of welfare recipients experience barriers to employment. Mental health problems and substance use or abuse are obstacles to work activity. The paper is online: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/34787
"Policy-makers and program managers must seek strategies to provide a range of support services that can help those on welfare overcome common barriers to employment," said Scott W. Allard, assistant professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, the study's lead author. "Mitigating the effects of distance may require transportation assistance or on-site childcare programs."
Researchers studied 668 women by combining information about service use among welfare recipients in the Detroit metropolitan area in 1999 with information about access to mental health and substance abuse service providers. Forty percent of the women met diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health disorder, and 7 percent indicated substance or alcohol abuse in the 12 months prior to the survey.
The study defined access to service providers as the number of outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities within a 1.5-mile radius and a 3-mile radius of a woman's residence. The distances were selected based on information from social service administrators regarding expected commuting distances for welfare recipients.