Characteristics and Service Utilization of Homeless Veterans Entering VA Substance Use Treatment
This article compares characteristics and health care utilization patterns of homeless veterans entering substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Baseline self-report and medical record data were collected from 181 homeless veterans participating in a randomized trial of SUD/housing case management. Veterans, categorized as newly (n = 45), episodically (n = 61), or chronically homeless (n = 75), were compared on clinical characteristics and health care utilization in the year prior to baseline. Between-groups differences were seen in stimulant use, bipolar, and depressive disorders. A significant majority accessed VA emergency department services, and nearly half accessed inpatient services, with more utilization among chronically versus newly homeless. A majority in all groups attended VA primary care (73.5%) and mental health (56.9%) visits, and 26.7% newly, 32.8% episodically, and 56.0% chronically homeless veterans initiated multiple SUD treatment episodes (p = .002). A significant proportion of veterans struggling with homelessness and SUDs appear to remain unstable despite high utilization of VA acute and preventative services.