Background and Objectives.
This study used the Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations 16 to identify determinants of receipt of outpatient medical care within 6 months of initial contact with a national homeless veterans outreach program.
Homeless veterans contacted through the program in 1999 (n = 26,926).
Data from structured interviews conducted at the time of program intake were merged with Veterans Affairs administrative data to determine subsequent medical service use. Logistic regression modeling was used to identify predisposing, enabling, and need factors from traditional and vulnerable domains predictive of receiving medical care.
Overall, 41.8% of subjects received at least one medical visit in the 6 months after program intake; of these, 48.7% had three or more visits. In multivariate analyses, the likelihood of receiving medical care was, among other things, positively associated with age, female gender, and placement in residential treatment and negatively associated with duration of homelessness and being contacted through outreach versus referred or self-referred into the homeless program. Mental illness did not appear to be an additional barrier to initiating medical care; however, a diagnosis of substance abuse or schizophrenia was associated with a decreased likelihood of receiving three or more visits.
A majority of homeless veterans contacted through a national outreach program failed to receive medical services within 6 months of program entry. Vulnerable-domain factors were important supplements to traditional variables in predicting use of medical services in the homeless population. Greater efforts are needed to ensure that mentally ill homeless persons are successfully linked with and engaged in medical treatment.