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More homeless mentally ill than expected according to UCSD study: Interventions urged

The prevalence of homelessness in persons with serious mental illness is 15 percent, a higher percentage than suggested in previous studies, according to new research by investigators at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine.

Published in the February 2005 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study noted that homelessness in this population might potentially be reduced or prevented with substance abuse treatment and help in obtaining public-funded health benefits (Medicaid, or MediCal in California). Because homeless mentally ill were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as non-homeless patients, the investigators said improved care for homeless persons with serious mental illness may be cost effective or at least result in improved patient outcomes with only moderate increases in total costs.

The research was conducted among an ethnically diverse population of 10,340 San Diegans with serious mental illness (both homeless and those with housing) who were treated by San Diego County Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS). While one-fourth to one-third of homeless persons are estimated to have a serious mental illness, this is one of the first studies to document and describe the other side of the picture the number of mentally ill who are homeless.

"Homelessness is more common in patients with serious mental illness than I would have guessed," said the study's first author, David Folsom, M.D., co-director of the UCSD Combined Family Medicine-Psychiatry Residency Program and the assistant medical director of St. Vincent de Paul Village's Family Health Center, a free medical clinic located in one of San Diego's largest homeless service agencies.

According to the UCSD researchers, homelessness was most frequently associated with people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, who were substance abusers, and who had no public-funded health care. Men were also more lik
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Contact: Sue Pondrom
spondrom@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
1-Feb-2005


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