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).
Available from: Adi Gundlapalli
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ABSTRACT: Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have used administrative criteria to identify homelessness among U.S. Veterans. Our objective was to explore the use of these codes in VA health care facilities. We examined VA health records (2002-2012) of Veterans recently separated from the military and identified as homeless using VA conventional identification criteria (ICD-9-CM code V60.0, VA specific codes for homeless services), plus closely allied V60 codes indicating housing instability. Logistic regression analyses examined differences between Veterans who received these codes. Health care services and co-morbidities were analyzed in the 90 days post-identification of homelessness. VA conventional criteria identified 21,021 homeless Veterans from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn (rate 2.5%). Adding allied V60 codes increased that to 31,260 (rate 3.3%). While certain demographic differences were noted, Veterans identified as homeless using conventional or allied codes were similar with regards to utilization of homeless, mental health, and substance abuse services, as well as co-morbidities. Differences were noted in the pattern of usage of homelessness-related diagnostic codes in VA facilities nation-wide. Creating an official VA case definition for homelessness, which would include additional ICD-9-CM and other administrative codes for VA homeless services, would likely allow improved identification of homeless and at-risk Veterans. This also presents an opportunity for encouraging uniformity in applying these codes in VA facilities nationwide as well as in other large health care organizations.
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