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Family and Client Perspectives on Alternative Residential Settings for Persons with Severe Mental Illness
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OBJECTIVE: The housing preferences of persons with severe mental illness living in three types of community residences were examined, as were their perceptions of problems in these settings and the relationships between clients' and family members' housing preferences and perceptions of problems.

METHODS: A closed-ended questionnaire was developed to gather demographic and diagnostic data and information about housing preferences and seven categories of service-related problems. It was completed by clients who lived in group settings with 24-hour on-site staff, in supported housing with on-site visits by staff, and in homes or apartments with no on-site professional services. Questionnaires were returned by 129 family members and 180 clients.

RESULTS: Clients who lived in group settings were significantly more likely to be older, less educated, unemployed, and diagnosed as having schizophrenia than clients in other settings. Although a larger proportion of family members than clients preferred housing with more support, for both families and clients a statistically significant association was found between current and preferred residence. A strong and significant correlation was found between clients' and family members' perceptions of problems, which included stress on the family and clients' social isolation and relapse to illness. For clients who lived independently, a significantly greater proportion of both clients and families reported that social isolation was a problem.

CONCLUSIONS: Although supported housing works well for some individuals, a continued need exists for an array of housing with varying levels of structure. The results suggest that clients and families identify the same problems as priorities. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services