Can Shelter-Based Interventions Improve Treatment Engagement in Homeless Individuals with Psychiatric and/or Substance Misuse Disorders

Although a large number of homeless individuals need psychiatric and/or substance abuse treatment, few receive consistent care. This study tested the effectiveness of a shelter-based intervention that incorporated outreach by a psychiatric social worker and the availability of weekly psychiatrist visits to encourage the target population to seek psychiatric consultation. Researchers used a randomized controlled trial study design with 102 individuals referred to a shelter-based clinic. The main outcome of interest was the proportion of intervention and control group patients who attended an initial appointment at a community mental health center (CMHC).

Key Findings:

  • Sixty-five percent of study participants who received the intervention attended one or more CMHC appointments, as compared to 37 percent of control group participants.
  • Fifty-one percent of intervention group participants participated in a substance abuse program, as compared to 13 percent of control group participants.
  • Intervention group participants were more likely to attend two CMHC visits, however there were no significant differences between the two groups for attending three visits, being employed or having housing.