Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The main purpose of the study was to describe the characteristics of homeless psychiatric patients, and to compare the treatment they are offered to that offered to domiciled patients by the psychiatric services. Another purpose was to analyse the prevalence of homelessness among psychiatric patients before and after the introduction of community mental health centres in Copenhagen. Cross-sectional studies were conducted in two intervention and two control districts before and after introduction of the new treatment modalities. In 1991, 80 of 1008 patients (8%) were homeless. Male sex, young age, living on general welfare, schizophrenia and alcohol or substance abuse were the factors that most markedly differentiated homeless from domiciled patients. Compared with the treatment of domiciled patients, the homeless were more likely to be offered no further treatment after consultation in a psychiatric emergency and, if admitted, they were more likely to be placed in locked wards, given compulsory medication, and medicated with depot neuroleptics. The homeless were also less likely to be offered psychotherapy and consultation with a social worker. Schizophrenia and alcohol or substance abuse characterised the majority of the patients discharged homeless. In the intervention districts, the number of homeless patients in contact with the psychiatric services was found to increase at the same rate as the number of all patients in contact with the psychiatric services. In the control districts, no changes in prevalence of homeless patients or other patients in contact with the psychiatric services occurred. It is concluded that homeless psychiatric patients comprise a difficult patient group, with problems of schizophrenia, substance abuse and lack of motivation for treatment. It is recommended that special efforts be made to create housing facilities that fit the needs of different types of homeless patients, and that the homeless mentally ill are assisted in obtaining and maintaining an acceptable housing situation.
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