Receipt of public support payments by people with substance abuse
disorders has been a subject of intense controversy in recent years.
Observing that such funds are often used to purchase addictive substances,
many critics have questioned whether people with chemical dependencies are
entitled to such payments and whether they should be allowed to spend these
funds unsupervised. This discussion introduces a special section of five
data-based papers on the relation of disability payments to chemical
dependence. The papers address five questions: Do public support payments
worsen substance abuse in vulnerable populations? Does assignment of a
representative payee reduce substance abuse among such beneficiaries? What
money management procedures are most likely to yield positive outcomes for
clients? How can clients who need payees be fairly identified? And how
should skilled, responsible payees or guardians be recruited, trained, and
retained? In the absence of scientific data, both clinical practice and
social policy are vulnerable to the whims of public opinion. These papers
shed new light on a heated area of policy debate.