Objective: To discover whether (as predicted in the literature) loss of contact with caring agencies is related to age, substance dependence, a history of law-breaking, or a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Method: A consecutive series of 71 homeless people with mental disorders was recruited over a period of 18 months. The subjects were new referrals to psychiatrists working in a primary health care clinic for the homeless. The subjects were then followed up for a further 18 months (maximum follow up time 36 months, minimum follow up time 18 months) to determine duration of contact with Oxford services for helping the homeless (survival time).
Results: Survival analyses indicated that early loss of contact with Oxford services for helping the homeless was strongly predicted by substance (mainly alcohol) dependence in the month before first attendance at the clinic (generalised Wilcoxon 15.8, p<0.001). Homeless people with mental disorders who are also alcohol dependent, were five times more likely to lose contact with caring agencies than homeless people with mental disorders who were not alcohol dependent (hazard ratio 5.05,95% confidence limits 14.9-3.0).
Conclusions: Amongst homeless people with mental disorder, there appears to be an association between substance (mainly alcohol) dependence and loss of contact with caring agencies. This may be because homeless people with a dual diagnosis of mental disorder and substance dependence, tend to be more mobile than those who are not substance dependent.