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Housing for Homeless Alcoholics May Reduce Public Burden

Housing active alcoholics leads to reductions in alcohol consumption and need for crisis care

TUESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Health care use and costs for chronically homeless people with severe alcohol problems are substantially reduced when they are provided housing without the precondition of abstinence from alcohol, according to a study published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mary E. Larimer, Ph.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a study of 95 previously homeless people with severe alcohol problems who were housed under the Housing First program, and compared their service use and costs with 39 wait-listed controls.

Median costs for the housed subjects dropped from $4,066 per person per month in the year prior to being housed, to $1,492 and $958 after six and 12 months in housing, respectively, the researchers report. Relative to wait-listed controls, the housed subjects had 53 percent lower costs over the first six months, the investigators found.

"These findings support the basic premise of Housing First: providing housing to individuals who remain actively addicted to alcohol, without conditions such as abstinence or treatment attendance, can reduce the public burden associated with overuse of crisis services and reduce alcohol consumption," the authors write. "Findings support strategies to retain these individuals in housing, including offering on-site medical and mental health services, supportive case managers, and minimal rules and regulations pertaining to their housing."

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