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Keywords:

  • Substance use;
  • welfare receipt;
  • welfare reform

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) changed the nature, purpose, and financing of public aid. Researchers, administrators, and policymakers expressed special concern about the act's impact on low-income mothers with substance use disorders. Before PRWORA's passage, however, little was known about the true prevalence of these disorders among welfare recipients or about the likely effectiveness of substance abuse treatment interventions for welfare recipients. Subsequent research documented that substance abuse disorders are less widespread among welfare recipients than was originally thought and are less common than other serious barriers to self-sufficiency. This research also showed significant administrative barriers to the screening, assessment, and referral of drug-dependent welfare recipients. This article summarizes current research findings and examines implications for welfare reform reauthorization.