Background: Housing insecurity is prevalent among emergency department (ED) patients. Despite a surge of interest in screening for patients' social needs including housing insecurity, little research has examined ED social needs interventions. We worked together with government and community partners to develop and pilot test a homelessness prevention intervention targeted to ED patients with drug or unhealthy alcohol use. Methods: We approached randomly sampled patients at an urban public hospital ED, May to August 2019. Adult patients were eligible if they were medically stable, not incarcerated, spoke English, had unhealthy alcohol or any drug use, and were not currently homeless but screened positive for risk of future homelessness using a previously developed risk screening tool. Participants received a three-part intervention: (1) brief counseling and referral to treatment for substance use delivered through a preexisting ED program; (2) referral to Homebase, an evidence-based community homelessness prevention program; and (3) up to three troubleshooting phone calls by study staff. Participants completed surveys at baseline and 6 months. Results: Of 2183 patients screened, 51 were eligible and 40 (78.4%) participated; one later withdrew, leaving 39 participants. Participants were diverse in age, gender, race, and ethnicity. Of the 32 participants reached at 6 months, most said it was very or extremely helpful to talk to someone about their housing situation (n = 23, 71.9%) at the baseline ED visit. Thirteen (40.6%) said their housing situation had improved in the past 6 months and 16 (50.0%) said it had not changed. Twenty participants (62.5%) had made contact with a Homebase office. Participants shared ideas of how to improve the intervention. Conclusions: This pilot intervention was feasible and well received by participants though it required a large amount of screening to identify potentially eligible patients. Our findings will inform a larger future trial and may be informative for others seeking to develop similar interventions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine