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Screening for homelessness among individuals initiating medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in the Veterans Health Administration

Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD, MSHP, Christopher B. Roberts, MPH, Stephen Metraux, PhD, Ann Elizabeth Montgomery, PhD

Abstract


Objective: To determine the prevalence of homelessness and risk for homelessness among veterans with opioid use disorder initiating treatment.

Setting: Addiction treatment programs operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Participants: All veterans initiating treatment with methadone or buprenorphine for opioid use disorder between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 (n = 2,699) who were administered the VA’s national homelessness screener.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported homelessness or imminent risk of homelessness.

Results: The prevalence of homelessness was 10.2 percent and 5.3 percent were at risk for homelessness. Compared to male veterans, women veterans were less likely to report homelessness (8.9 percent vs 10.3 percent) but more likely to be at risk (11.8 percent vs 4.9 percent). By age group, veterans aged 18-34 and 45-54 years most frequently reported homelessness (12.0 and 11.7 percent, respectively) and veterans aged 45-54 and 55-64 years most frequently reported risk for homelessness (6.5 and 6.8 percent, respectively).

Conclusions: The prevalence of homelessness in this population is approximately 10 times that of the general veteran population accessing care at VA. Screening identified a substantial number of veterans who could benefit from VA housing assistance and had not received it recently. Programs to address veteran homelessness should engage with veterans seeking addiction treatment. Integration of homelessness services into addiction treatment settings may, in turn, improve outcomes.


Keywords


homelessness, heroin dependence, opiate dependence, methadone, buprenorphine

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jom.2015.0298

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