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20% of Homeless Hospitalized 3 Times in Last Year

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 18, 2011

A survey of the nation's homeless in 30 cities has found that more than one in five visited the emergency department or was hospitalized over three times in the last year, nearly 40% had no health coverage such as Medicaid and more than one in five were living with triple diagnoses.

That's the finding of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a private and government funded outreach project that is seeking to, in part, reach out to hospitals and doctors to remedy the situation.

"Hospitals have a whole lot of ways they can be a part of this," says Catherine Craig, director of Health Integration for Community Solutions, the national campaign's parent organization. "Unfortunately, we see that solving the problem is not necessarily on every hospital's list of priorities."

The survey also found that 44% of the 18,778 homeless individuals surveyed face at least one health condition that puts them at risk of dying in the street, 45% have been diagnosed with mental illness. And 11.8% had sought care in a hospital emergency room in the last three months.

Of those surveyed, 22% acknowledged three health conditions: they have substance abuse issues, a mental illness diagnosis, and a chronic physical condition such as a disease. About 2,000 volunteers asked the questions – part of what they called a "vulnerability index" assessment in areas where homeless people congregate.

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