Integrating Hospital and Community Care for Homeless People with Unmet Mental Health Needs: Program Rationale, Study Protocol and Sample Description of a Brief Multidisciplinary Case Management Intervention

The Coordinated Access to Care for Homeless People (CATCH) program is a brief multidisciplinary case management intervention for homeless adults discharged from hospital in Toronto, Canada. Here we describe the rationale for CATCH program development, details of the mixed methods evaluation underway, and the characteristics of 225 CATCH service users. Funded in 2010 by the local health authority, CATCH aimed to improve access, continuity of care, health and service use outcomes for homeless adults discharged from hospital. To assess the feasibility, acceptability and impact of the program, a mixed methods case study was undertaken in 2013. In total, 225 CATCH program users were enrolled in the study and completed quantitative survey measures at program entry to assess key health and social outcomes using a pre-post cohort study design. Follow-up assessments took place at 3- and 6-months. At study entry, most participants were male (79%), white (65%), Canadian-born (74%), single or never married (60%), and their average age was 39.9 ± 12.0 years. Nearly all participants (88%) had at least one emergency department visit in the past 6 months, more than half (53%) indicated at least three chronic health conditions, and 44% indicated at least three mental health diagnoses. In addition, qualitative data was collected to evaluate the experiences of continuity of care and challenges during care transitions for this population using in-depth interviews with a sample of CATCH service users (n = 22) and managers of partnered organizations (n = 7), as well as focus groups with CATCH staff (n = 8), other service providers (n = 7) and people with lived experience of homelessness (n = 8). Improving health and health service use outcomes among homeless adults with chronic health conditions are key priorities in many jurisdictions. Future findings can inform service delivery to homeless adults discharged from hospital, by exposing factors associated with positive program outcomes, as well as barriers and facilitators to continuity of care for this disadvantaged population.

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International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction