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Responding to the needs of the homeless mentally ill.
  • Published Date:
    1985 Sep-Oct
  • Source:
    Public Health Rep. 100(5):462-469
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-1.87 MB]

  • Alternative Title:
    Public Health Rep
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  • Description:
    The homeless mentally ill represent a pivotal and urgent challenge to the mental health field in the 1980s. Those homeless who have extended histories of psychiatric hospitalization stand as harsh reminders of the failures of deinstitutionalization, while young mentally ill homeless adults who never have been treated as inpatients testify to the gaps and unrealized promises of community-based care under deinstitutionalization. Homelessness and mental illness are social and clinical problems, respectively, distinct in some ways but intertwined in others. Some of the factors that contribute to homelessness--such as economic deprivations, a dearth of low-cost housing, discontinuities in social service systems, and radical changes in the composition of American families--are felt particularly keenly by many persons who are mentally ill. And symptoms of mental disorders, in turn, frequently impede an individual's capacities to cope with those, as well as other, stressors. Developing appropriate and effective responses to the needs of homeless people who are mentally ill requires precise definition and identification of the target population, innovations in the mental health service system, encouragement of those who staff it to work with homeless mentally ill patients, and public education. Ultimately, however, fundamental answers will be found in an improved understanding of severe mental illness, enhanced treatment capacities, and greater attention to the rehabilitative needs of mentally ill persons.

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