Substance use disorders and employability among welfare recipients

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The 2006 welfare reform legislation (Deficit Reduction Act of 2005) imposed more stringent work requirements and defined the amount of time cash assistance recipients are allowed to be exempted from the work requirement because of substance use treatment. As there is little empirical literature on the employability of substance users, it is difficult to know whether it is realistic to expect individuals with substance use disorders to meet the increased work requirement. Based on a comprehensive evaluation of nearly 9,000 substance-misusing welfare recipients from 2001 to 2007, University Behavioral Associates (UBA) Comprehensive Services Model program in Bronx, New York, found that 60 of recipients were not exempted from the work requirement owing to substance misuse at the outset, and an additional 24 were found nonexempt after 3 months of intensive outpatient treatment coupled with case management, resulting in a total of 84 of the UBA clients not being exempted from the work requirement because of substance misuse by Day 90. UBA also found that 25 of substance-misusing clients were able to obtain employment, and most successfully retained those jobs over the course of 6 months. These findings are discussed in relation to the new law's work requirements and the issue of the employability of substance misusers. Finally, the value of case management in serving this hard-to-engage population is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2095-2112
Number of pages18
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • case management
  • disability
  • employment
  • substance use disorders
  • treatment attendance
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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