New Study Points the Way to Better Care, Improved Outcomes and Lower Costs for Homeless People with Chronic Conditions
Feb 1, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Laura Sadowski
By Laura Sadowski, MD, MPH, and Romina Kee, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar alumnae
Becoming homeless is distressing for anyone, and it is especially challenging for people with chronic health problems who need ongoing care.
The face of America’s homeless population is changing. When the job market collapsed a few years ago, millions of families were forced out of their homes. A 2009 national survey of organizations providing services to the homeless found that an estimated 10 to 19 percent had become homeless in the past year due to foreclosure. Nearly one percent of the U.S. population experiences homelessness each year.
Previous research on the health/medical, legal, housing and social services costs accrued by people who are homeless has focused on subsets of the population—those with mental illnesses, substance abuse problems, or the “chronic homeless” (those who have been without stable housing for 24 or more months). But they comprise a small portion of America’s homeless population. The chronic homeless, for instance, represent just 18 percent.
So how do we ensure that all homeless patients – regardless of their individual circumstances – get the care they need, while reducing costs?
In our study published in a special edition of Health Services Research: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Health Policy, we looked at a novel, broader sample: homeless adults with chronic conditions. Unlike previous studies, the majority of our study subjects were not mentally ill, substance abusers, HIV infected, veterans, or frequent users of the health care system.