High use of homelessness services for those in alcohol and drug treatment

Almost 40,000 Australians received both alcohol and drug treatment and specialist homelessness services over a 3-year period, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Exploring drug treatment and homelessness in Australia: 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014 examines the overlap between the use of homelessness services and alcohol and drug treatment.

‘By looking at users of both services, we identified a group of almost 40,000 people who accessed both service types between 2011–2014. These clients formed our study population,’ said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

Over this 3 year period, more than 1 in every 5 alcohol and drug treatment clients also accessed homelessness assistance, while about 1 in 12 of all homelessness clients received alcohol and drug treatment.

The report’s analysis reveals that over three-quarters (77%) of the study population, in addition to their housing and drug and alcohol issues, experienced an additional vulnerability, including mental health problems or domestic and family violence issues.

‘For example, among the 40,000 people who accessed both homelessness services and alcohol and drug treatment, about half had a current mental health issue,’ Mr Beard said.

Overall, nearly three-fifths (59%) of the study population were male. However, in instances where a client was also experiencing domestic and family violence, 73% were female.

‘Clients in the study group were more likely to be seeking treatment for multiple drugs—nearly 1 in 5 sought treatment for more than one drug, which was three times the rate of those who were drug treatment clients only,’ Mr Beard said.

The rate of treatment for heroin and pharmaceutical misuse among the study population was also double that of clients who only received drug treatment.

Today’s analysis also shows that clients in the study population were less consistently engaged with homelessness services, generally having more frequent periods of homelessness support, but fewer nights of accommodation.

‘This highlights the difficulty in housing clients with complex needs—even in short-term or emergency accommodation,’ Mr Beard said.

‘These clients with the most complex needs tend to churn in and out of services with each crisis encountered.’

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