Homeless and the mentally ill

  1. WEDNESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDayNews) -- A full 15 percent of Americans with serious mental illness are currently homeless, a much higher figure than suggested by previous research, a new study finds.

    The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, urged more action to reduce this problem. They believe homelessness among those with serious mental illness could be reduced or prevented by providing individuals with substance abuse treatment and helping them obtain public-funded health benefits.

    Because the homeless mentally ill are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as mentally ill people with housing, improving care for homeless people with serious mental illness may be cost effective, the researchers add. At the very least, they say, improvements in care should improve outcomes with only moderate increases in expenditure.

    The researchers tracked 10,340 people with serious mental illness -- both homeless and those with housing -- in San Diego.

    People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, substance abusers, and those without publicly-funded health care were most likely to be homeless, they found. Men were more likely to be without housing than women, and blacks were more likely to be homeless than either Hispanics or Asians.

    The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

    "Homelessness is an increasingly important public health issue, with seriously mentally ill persons most at risk for homelessness," study senior author Dr. Dilip Jeste, a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences and director of the UCSD Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, said in a prepared statement.

    "In addition to the trauma experienced by these individuals, there is also a cost to society. Homeless persons have a significantly more frequent use of expensive emergency services and are more likely to spend more time in jail," Jeste added.

    More information

    The U.S. Center for Mental Health Services has more about homelessness (www.nrchmi.samhsa.gov ).
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Fascinating and disturbing. I am not surprised. Many homeless people ARE mentally ill at least on some level. It's very sad. Such a rich country. But some do NOT want help, either, and that is a sad side of the coin.
  4. by   HarryPotter
    about the homeless and the mentally ill; I work for San Diego County as a psych nurse (Thunderwolf, are u in San DIego?). We see many homeless psych. patients in our clinics, which, unfortunately may be farmed out to a private company. They don't see the homeless population. The company that underbid us for services has 3 X the rate of hospitalizations! We are worried about what not seeing this population will do to our communities (i.e. more ER visits, more psychotic people roaming the streets, more need for the police to intervene, and in general making our communities unsafe). It is really awful what is happening. If this certain company actually is given our clinics (this is in North County of San Diego), and impact will be enormous. Unfortunately, this company underbid us (the clinics), but their cost is lower because they have less licensed staff, do not use the newer generations of meds for people who can't pay for them, don't see the homeless, they pay their employees less ) I don't know where the homeless population will go. The San Diego Board of Suervisors appear to already having made the decision to give our North County Clinics to this company, and they are not looking at the broader picture and impact of less services and less quality. Any suggestions?
  5. by   leslie :-D
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    But some do NOT want help, either, and that is a sad side of the coin.
    interesting you should bring that up.
    dh told me the exact same thing yrs ago.
    i don't understand the logistics...i've taken care of quite a few homeless people and when i tried to get them in a group home type of environment, they just wanted their infections/wounds cleared up and to leave. period.

    had absolutely no interest in finding a place to live.
    very tragic (and confusing).

    leslie
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from earle58
    interesting you should bring that up.
    dh told me the exact same thing yrs ago.
    i don't understand the logistics...i've taken care of quite a few homeless people and when i tried to get them in a group home type of environment, they just wanted their infections/wounds cleared up and to leave. period.

    had absolutely no interest in finding a place to live.
    very tragic (and confusing).

    leslie
    I have sat down and talked to homeless people on and off thru the years. Some are perfectly happy in their situations (or at least say they are) and desire no help, nor interference. They just want to be left alone. It blows my mind, cause such a basic need as shelter is not a given for these folks. I guess their priorities and mine are different. I have shared meals and bought homeless people food before, and they were grateful for this and the conversation. Some of those conversations were rather interesting...to say the least. Other than that, I don't give them anything. I do donate to homeless causes, however. But it's true that a certain number out there do NOT want our help, for whatever reason.
  7. by   Roy Fokker
    Behold! The story of ONE homeless guy - posted and maintained by the man himself...

    http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/
  8. by   HarryPotter
    thanks Roy and Thunderwolf...I was able to use your info to e-mail and write agencies abolut the state of affairs in San Diego where the homeless will be out in the cold for mental health services if San Diego County looses its clinics to the private company who underbid us. They won't be seeing the homeless, believe me.
  9. by   BeachNurse
    Quote from Roy Fokker
    Behold! The story of ONE homeless guy - posted and maintained by the man himself...

    http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/
    It's great that the homeless guy has internet access. Some of the homeless women I knew of were too worried about where their and their childrens' next meals were coming from to write "poor me" stories on the internet. :stone
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from BeachNurse
    It's great that the homeless guy has internet access. Some of the homeless women I knew of were too worried about where their and their childrens' next meals were coming from to write "poor me" stories on the internet. :stone
    seems the guy has no kids to rear..........that i can tell.

    and it is likely he accessed free internet services from somewhere like a library. anyone can do that, even the homeless.

    try reading the blog; it is rather interesting....

    that he has been homeless for 23 years is a mindblower for me.
  11. by   BeachNurse
    I have yet to understand why he is homeless. At this point it appears to be his choice.
  12. by   jnette
    I, too, have spent time with many a homeless person.. their stories are fascinating.

    I have found that there ARE a good number who are in all truth quite happy with thier lifestyle and their choice of remaining homeless. They are glad to be free of the chains that bind them to what we call "socially acceptable" or "normal". They have no regrets, nor would they trade places.. not even on a bitter cold night.

    Then there are the mothers and children.. displaced families.. another story altogether.

    And the mentally ill who so easily fall through the cracks...
  13. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from BeachNurse
    I have yet to understand why he is homeless. At this point it appears to be his choice.
    I can't honestly believe someone would make it a choice to be homeless - suffer from the cold and wandering the streets.

    I can see how he is a voice for the homeless community - something that most don't have.

    At a military form I'm a part of, we had a member sporadically check in. It was apaprent from his postings that he had a mental afliction and frmo what we could gather, the amn is homeless too. Apparently, he'd worked on nuke boats (attack submarines) and had some kind of disease. I believe his VA status wasn't straight or something. Very vague
  14. by   HarryPotter
    The Homeless Guy is really interessting, as is his site. He is obsiously very intelligent and has his wits about him. Don't know why he cant make a living given all he has ging for him.
    I have worked with a lot of homeless too and as said befre, many people do choose to stay homeless. from what I have seen it's because they don't like following rules and schedules. They have their own community. Many misfits and druggies in the homeless population, as well as the mentally ill.
    I have found, pretty much, its a choice they make.

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