Study objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among emergency health care use, 911 call volume, and jail admissions with the timing of the distribution of General Assistance, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, and Minnesota Supplemental Aid welfare checks. Design: This was a retrospective study analyzing previously collected census and welfare check distribution data. Setting: The data used in this study were obtained from the Hennepin County Medical Center, the Hennepin County jail and alcoholic receiving center, and Department of Economic Assistance. Interventions: The daily census for the years 1986 through 1988 in the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency department, ED resuscitation room, pediatric ED, crisis intervention center, urgent care center, and alcoholic receiving center was obtained. The numbers of daily ambulance runs, nonelective hospital admissions, Hennepin County 911 calls, and Hennepin County jail admissions for the same years also were obtained. Means for each day of the month were computed across the 36 months of observation. These data were correlated with the number of days elapsed since the monthly issuance of the General Assistance, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, and Minnesota Supplemental Aid welfare checks. Measurements and main results: There were significant correlations between the number of days after distribution of the checks and the average values of the census of the alcoholic receiving center (r = -.96, P < .00001), the ED (r = -.80, P < .0001), ambulance runs (r = - .68, P < .0001), 911 calls (r = - .45, P = .01), jail admissions (r = -.45, P = .01), nonelective hospital admissions (r = -.44, P = .01), and the crisis intervention center visits (r = - .39, P = .03). Conclusions: The findings suggest that scheduling and staffing practices of various emergency service areas in Hennepin County reflect patient load variation associated with time of welfare check distribution. Systematic variation of time or amount of welfare could lead to improved distribution and reduction of emergency services demand.
- welfare checks, distribution, emergency care