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Addict Behav. 2008 Sep;33(9):1239-43. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2008.04.015. Epub 2008 May 9.

The health encounter as a treatable moment for homeless substance-using adults: the role of homelessness, health seeking behavior, readiness for behavior change and motivation for treatment.

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Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine, United States. Thomas.O'


Substance-using homeless persons frequent emergency departments and hospitals often. However, little is known about how homelessness affects when they seek care and their motivation for substance abuse treatment (SAT). We surveyed homeless (N=266) and non-homeless (N=104) substance-using adults sequentially admitted to an urban hospital medicine service, comparing demographics, readiness for change (URICA), and motivating reasons for SAT. Homeless respondents were more likely to be younger, uninsured, have hepatitis B/C, and <12th grade education. The majority in both groups were in either a precontemplative or contemplative stage of change, although more homeless respondents were in an action stage. They also had similar motivating reasons for wanting SAT, although being homeless was an additional motivator for the majority of homeless respondents. Almost half reported that being homeless caused them to delay seeking health care; paradoxically those citing physical health as a SAT motivator were 3.4 times more likely to have delayed care. While acutely ill homeless persons were at least as motivated for SAT, these data suggest the challenge is getting them to care in a timely manner and tailoring interventions during the care episode to avail of this motivation.

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