Meals applications with work wants have led to extra individuals needing psychological well being care – The Hill

A glance at the story

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to help low-income families struggling with food insecurity.

  • However, some states have clamped down on work requirements for SNAP benefits, further hindering these food-struggling populations.

  • For the first time, new research shows that these work requirements are associated with more visits to mental health providers among SNAP recipients.

Individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support with the caveat of work requirements for anxiety and mood disorders were more likely to need mental health care, according to data collected from West Virginia.

Food insecurity is already linked to poor mental health outcomes, as is job insecurity, and the nation is currently struggling mental health care provider shortage.

SNAP provides federal nutrition assistance to low-income families, and in 2015, more than 20 million families participated in the program, the researchers said. However, some recently work requirement policies has been implemented in some states, which may create barriers for those who need the services most.

To better understand the effect these requirements have on enrollees’ mental health, the researchers evaluated data from West Virginia, which reinstated work requirement exemptions in several of the state’s counties.

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The study included 65,157 Medicaid enrollees across nine counties.

Using Medicaid claims data collected between 2015 and 2018, analyzes showed that work requirements were associated with a 0.9 percentage point increased risk of a mood disorder visit among women. Likewise, an increase of 0.7 percentage points was seen among men.

For anxiety specifically, over the time period women subject to work requirements had a relative increased risk of 17.8 percent compared to a baseline of 5.8 percent, while men saw a relative change of 24.3 percent over a baseline probability of 5 percent. However, the rate of increase among men was more gradual than that of women.

The threat of losing SNAP benefits could exacerbate existing mood disorders among enrollees, which could lead to an uptick in mental health services used, the authors explained. Additionally, those with undiagnosed or untreated conditions could be encouraged to visit a provider to seek an exemption from work requirements.

“​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ had found that women were affected by work requirements much earlier compared to men, consistent with many studies documenting an association between food insecurity and poorer mental health outcomes among women,” said the authors.

Women are also overrepresented in SNAP programs, as they tend to play a larger role in getting food for their families.

“Half of non-working women have reported that childcare/family responsibilities contributed to their employment decision. Women are also more likely than men to work part-time, which limits their eligibility for policy exemption,” they said.

Previous research has yielded no results showing work requirements large employment gains and really reduce SNAP participation among vulnerable populations, the researchers concluded that “future policy makers and research should seek to better understand these trade-offs when considering the net impact of SNAP work requirement policies on an already marginalized population. ”

Published on August 01, 2022

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