Objective. In Italy, Residential Facilities (RFs) have completely replaced Mental Hospitals (MHs) for the residential care of mentally ill patients. We studied all patients resident in 265 randomly sampled Italian RFs (20% of the total).
Method. Structured interviews focusing on each patient were conducted by trained research assistants with the manager and staff of each RF. Patients were rated with the HoNOS and the GAF, and comprehensive information about their sociodemographic and clinical status and care history were gathered.
Results. Of the 2962 patients living in the sampled facilities, most were males (63·2%) who had never married, more than 70% were over 40 years; 85% on a pension, most commonly because of psychiatric disability. A substantial proportion (39·8%) had never worked and very few were currently employed (2·5%); 45% of the sample was totally inactive, not even assisting with domestic activities in the facility. Two-thirds had a diagnosis of schizophrenia; co-morbid or primary substance abuse were uncommon. Twenty-one per cent had a history of severe interpersonal violence, but violent episodes in the RFs were infrequent. The managers judged almost three-quarters appropriately placed in their facilities and considered that very few had short-term prospects of discharge.
Conclusions. Italian RFs cater for a large patient population of severely mentally ill requiring residential care. Discharge to independent accommodation is uncommon. Future studies should attempt to clarify how to match residential programmes with patients' disabilities.
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