Identify unique challenges or special considerations when evaluating and treating homeless individuals. Identify a resource for clinical practice guidelines or practice parameters in treating this population. This is in regards to treating the psychiatric needs of homeless people. Are they more prone to mental illness or substance abuse?
Vulnerable Populations: Treating Homeless Individuals
Homelessness people, regardless of gender, age and ethnicity, are susceptible to illness, have higher hospitalization rates, and tend to have a shorter life expectancy due to conditions they live. For instance, Maness and Khan (2014) found out that a homeless person has an average life span of between 42 and 52 years. Lack of a physical home, combined with financial problems exposes homeless people to unique challenges when trying to access health care services. Thus, healthcare providers have an obligation to recognize the special healthcare needs of homeless individuals when developing and offering healthcare services for them.
Unique challenges and special considerations when treating homeless individuals
The first factor that challenges treatment plans for homeless people is the multiplicity of needs. Besides physical medical problems, social issues and mental health illnesses, homeless people often have a host of other health problems including alcohol and substance abuse (Maness & Khan, 2014). For example, according to the Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Health Care for Homeless People (2008), approximately 25% to 40% of homeless patients suffer from serious drug abuse problems. This means that healthcare providers must ensure that the treatment plans for this population take into account addiction problems.
Additionally, homeless people tend to lack close family members or affiliation with a supportive network of individuals. This presents a major challenge to their treatment, especially when it comes to medication adherence where supportive family members and friends is key. Moreover, lack of permanent residence implies that majority of homeless people are not eligible for medical coverage plans because most of the medical covers require one to have a physical address. As such, many homeless people will not present to healthcare facilities until at later stages of their illnesses.
Lastly, most homeless people distrust the authority and the healthcare system, and thus are disenchanted with health care facilities. Thus, care providers ensure that treatment plans for this population are designed in way that earns the population’s trust.
Resource for clinical practice in treating the population
Various resources and programs have been established to guide clinical practice in treating homeless individuals. some of the resources include Treatment for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness (TIEH), Trauma, Case Management, and Social Inclusion (SAMHSA, 2019). Of the available resources, one that is more concerned with psychiatric treatment of homeless people is case management
Institute of Medicine (US). Committee on Health Care for Homeless People. (2008). Homelessness, health, and human needs. National Academies.
Maness, D. L., & Khan, M. (2014). Care of the homeless: an overview. American Family Physician, 89(8), 634-640.
SAMHSA. (2019, March 29). Homelessness programs and resources. SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved August 5, 2020, from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources