Friday, April 3, 2009

'Wet' Homeless Shelters Can Save Public Money, Study Says

The following study reports on a "wet" shelter for homeless heavy drinkers that finds costs to society declines as does drinking in its residents. This harm reduction approach is being instituted in several other organizations including one here in NYC called the Bowery Residents Committee. This study supports the basic tenets of harm reduction: starting where the patient is, assuming the patient has strengths that can be built on, focusing on reducing harm rather than a sole requirement for abstinence before anything else can be addressed, embracing small incremental change as success all enhance the alliance with treatment, build self esteem and self-efficacy and are best suited to facilitate positive change. Not only is this good for the individual, it is good for society at large.

Andrew Tatarsky, PhD


'Wet' Homeless Shelters Can Save Public Money, Study Says

April 2, 2009
Research Summary

A new study finds that homeless shelters that allow alcoholic residents to continue to drink alcohol can save taxpayers money and still facilitate declines in alcohol consumption.
Reuters reported March 31 that the study from Mary Larimer of the University of Washington and colleagues found that homeless alcoholics admitted to shelters without being forced to quit drinking or enter into treatment were more likely to stay out of jail and emergency rooms than those on shelter waiting lists.

Researchers estimated that public costs related to the 95 individuals enrolled in a Seattle program called Housing First were reduced by more than $4 million during the yearlong study period.

Before getting housing, study participants were racking up an average of $4,000 each per month in jail, detox, hospital, and other services; that figure fell to $1,492 after six months in the program and $958 after a year, the study found. Residency at Housing First costs $1,120 per person per month, including meals and housing.

"These benefits increase over time and they are possible without requiring that participants stop drinking," Larimer said. "And yet, the longer the participants stay in the housing program, the less they drink." Housing First residents' drinking decreased from a median of 15.7 drinks daily at the start of the study to 14 after six months and 10 after a year.

The research was published in the April 1, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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