Factors Predicting Choice of Provider among Homeless Veterans With Mental Illness

Gail Gamache, Robert A. Rosenheck and Richard Tessler

August 2000

Homeless persons with serious mental illness are especially likely to lack access to comprehensive medical and psychiatric care. This study examined the relative importance of predisposing factors, illness factors, and enabling factors as determinants of the use of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care services by mentally ill homeless veterans seeking services from a non-VA program. Predisposing factors included demographic characteristics and wartime service; illness factors were related to the type of medical problem and the need to seek medical care; and enabling factors included entitlement to VA medical services and location of VA facilities. Logistic regression analysis was used to analyze data for 698 homeless veterans with mental illness who were enrolled in the Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Supports (ACCESS) program. About 56 percent of the mentally ill homeless veterans had used VA services at some time in their lives. Homeless veterans were almost twice as likely as other poor veterans to use VA services; those with a dual diagnosis were also more likely to use VA services. Enabling factors were more important than either predisposing or illness factors in predicting VA service use. Veterans most likely to use VA services were those who received VA benefits that gave them priority access to VA services and those who lived near a VA medical center. Specific characteristics of the service system and of veterans' entitlement were more important than clinical needs or predisposing factors in predicting service use.

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