Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person with a purposive sample of 18 SDC participants, including 11 females and seven males with a mean age of 54 (SD = 11.8). Of those interviewed, eight were white, six were black, and four identified as being biracial; 16 reported being diagnosed with a mood disorder. A schedule was used for consistency. Recorded interviews were transcribed, and data were analyzed using the constant comparative method.
Results: Participants reported recovery-related purchases in five categories: basic needs; mental health; physical fitness; education and technology; and miscellaneous supplies (e.g., office, craft). The largest and most frequently reported category included those related to basic needs. Analysis of the benefits that individuals associated with these purchases revealed five themes: financial help; mental wellness and stability; tools and opportunities; self-esteem; and physical well-being. Participants reported that their financial needs, the SDC program’s purchasing policies and procedures, and their recovery goals influenced their purchases decisions. Finally, participants described barriers experienced in making desired purchases. These barriers clustered in the following categories: lack of clarity and flexibility in purchasing guidelines, technicalities in purchasing procedures, perceived disconnect between purchases and goals, and participants’ struggles with symptoms.
Conclusions and Implications: Participants regard SDC purchases as integral to their mental health recovery as well as to their daily survival. Flexible purchasing guidelines afford participants the freedom to make purchases to subsidize their living expenses and to pursue recovery goals otherwise unaffordable. Findings reveal the extent to which money matters in mental health recovery and suggest that individualized budgeting and purchasing contribute to SDC participants’ mental wellness and stability, enhance their control over service choices, and, most notably, provide some material relief in ongoing struggles with chronic poverty.