Outcomes of Homeless Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers in Community Residences and a Therapeutic Community

OBJECTIVES: The feasibility and effectiveness of treating homeless mentally ill chemical abusers in community residences compared with a therapeutic community were evaluated. METHODS: A total of 694 homeless mentally ill chemical abusers were randomly referred to two community residences or a therapeutic community. All programs were enhanced to treat persons with dual diagnoses. Subjects' attrition, substance use, and psychopathology were measured at two, six, and 12 months. RESULTS: Forty-two percent of the 694 referred subjects were admitted to their assigned program and showed up for treatment, and 13 percent completed 12 months or more. Clients retained at both types of program showed reductions in substance use and psychopathology, but reductions were greater at the therapeutic community. Compared with subjects in the community residences, those in the therapeutic community were more likely to be drug free, as measured by urine analysis and self-reports, and showed greater improvement in psychiatric symptoms, as measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression Scale and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Their functioning also improved, as measured by the Global Assessment of Functioning scale. CONCLUSIONS: Homeless mentally ill chemical abusers who are retained in community-based residential programs, especially in therapeutic communities, can be successfully treated. (Authors)

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Psychiatric Services