Use of Outpatient Mental Health Services by Homeless Veterans After Hurricanes
Little is known about the impact of hurricanes on people who are homeless at the time a disaster occurs. Although researchers have extensively studied the psychosocial consequences of disaster produced homelessness on the general population, efforts focused on understanding how homeless people fare have been limited to a few media reports and the gray literature. In the event of a hurricane, homeless veterans may be at increased risk for negative outcomes because of their cumulative vulnerabilities. Health care statistics consistently document that homeless veterans experience higher rates of medical, emotional, substance abuse, legal, and financial problems compared with the general population. This study used the 2004 to 2006 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Outpatient Medical Dataset to examine the effects of hurricanes on use of outpatient mental health services by homeless veterans. Homeless veterans residing in hurricane-affected counties were significantly more likely to participate in group psychotherapy (32.4% vs. 13.4%, p < .002), but less likely to participate in individual 30-40-min sessions with medical evaluations (3.5% vs. 17.3%, p < .001). The study findings have implications for homeless programs and the provision of VHA mental health services to homeless veterans postdisaster. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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