Hospitalizing homeless costs same as housing: USA study FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 19:21:11 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.infoseek.com/Content?arn=a2475LBY370reulb-19980610&qt=homeless+AND+Se
attle&col=D1&kt=A&ak=premiernews


  HOSPITALIZING HOMELESS COSTS SAME AS HOUSING - U.S. STUDY

  By Gene Emery


BOSTON, June 10 (Reuters) - It costs about as much to treat the
homeless as it does to house them, a study in Thursday's New
England Journal of Medicine reports.

Researchers examined New York City's homeless and how they
sought medical treatment from the public hospital system. They
found that the homeless were more likely to be admitted, and once
there, tended to stay longer than other patients.

The result was hospital expenses comparable to what it would cost to
provide public housing and support services for the homeless.

The conclusions by Sharon Salit of the New York City Health and
Hospitals Corp. and her colleagues are based on the records from
almost 19,000 hospital admissions involving homeless people
seeking treatment in 1992 and 1993.

Their findings are being released at a time when the city is trying to
save money by privatising the public hospitals that care for the
homeless when they fall ill.

Salit and her team found that homeless patients stayed in the
hospital 36 percent longer than other patients, partly because doctors
often had nowhere safe to send them, especially when they also
suffered from mental illness.

``The average cost of additional days per discharge ($2,414) among
the homeless nearly equalled the annual public-assistance rent
allowance for a single person in New York City ($2,580),'' they
concluded.

Most of the extra costs came from people with psychiatric disorders.

``Better access to supportive housing for these patients could reduce
hospital stays by as many as 70 days'' a person, they said. That
would save at least $17,500, ``whereas a unit of supportive housing
with social services for an entire year costs $12,500 in New York
City.''

``We continue paying to put the homeless in hospital beds while
not providing them with ordinary beds of their own,'' said Dr. Paul
Starr of Princeton University in an editorial in the Journal.

But Starr acknowledged that the problem of homelessness lacked ``a
cheap and obvious solution.''

He said that ``subsidized housing for all these people would sharply
reduce homelessness, but it would be very expensive.''

The lack of affordable public housing, the move to raise housing
standards to make it harder for people to crowd together, plus
society's decision to empty mental hospitals without paying for
community services for the mentally ill combined to create the
problem, Starr said.

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