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Improving access to health services for residents of supported housing (USA)

May 17, 2012

Prior research indicates that Individuals with psychiatric disabilities underutilize needed health services and are at greater risk for medical co-morbidities. A recent study in Philadelphia looked at the impact of engagement, including case management services, on utilization of health services by individuals with a mental health condition, living in supported housing. Supported housing is defined as independent housing in the community which also provides individualized care services such as case management. The study showed that residents with support services did access health services more than residents who did not receive individualized support.

The study was conducted with a cross-section of 515 housing residents within 26 programs. Residents included in the study had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or a major affective disorder; lived in supported housing; and were substance-free for at least six months.

The findings indicated that 92 per cent had regular access to care that was not provided by an emergency room. The study also found that older residents with more than one co-morbid condition had the highest rate of health care access by 85.5 per cent more visits. Those who had case management services and more frequent visits from housing providers accessed health services 30.3 per cent and 39.7 percent respectively more than those who did not have these support services.

Authors caution that increased access does not necessarily mean enhanced health outcomes. But the study does suggest that a combination of case management and housing supports decreases common barriers to health care for this population and could be an important mechanism to enable better access to medical services.

To read the abstract, “Predictors of Health Services Utilization among Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities Engaged in Supported Independent Housing,” go to¬†www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

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