Study: How a ‘Housing First’ Approach Impacts Healthcare Access

An analysis from Denver shows that unhoused people receiving services based on a Housing First approach were more likely to access psychiatric care and had fewer emergency medical visits.

1 minute read

January 30, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of Denver, Colorado skyline at dusk.

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An analysis of supportive housing programs in Denver, Colorado reveals that a Housing First approach, which prioritizes placing unhoused people into housing before imposing other requirements, led to higher rates of doctor visits for mental health diagnoses and prescriptions and lower numbers of emergency room visits among participants.

An article by researchers Devlin Hanson and Sarah Gillespie in Health Affairs outlines part of their results. “Two years after assignment to the Housing First intervention, participants had an average of eight more office-based visits for psychiatric diagnoses, three more prescription medications, and six fewer emergency department visits than the control group.” The two groups had no statistically significant difference in mortality rates.

The authors see these results as an indicator that housing programs can also impact health care provision. “As policy makers seek increased funding to scale up effective ways to address the needs of populations experiencing chronic homelessness, our results provide evidence that supportive housing with a Housing First approach not only can provide a housing solution but also can facilitate engagement in needed health care services.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2024 in Health Affairs

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