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The Importance of a Housing First Approach to Treatment

The conversation around the best way to address the often co-occurring issues of homelessness, substance use disorder, and mental illness is a contentious one. Broadly speaking, the debate can be divided into two main philosophies: housing first and treatment first. Here, we’ll briefly discuss the differences between the two, as well as the benefits of a housing first approach to treatment for mental illness and substance use. 

Housing First vs. Treatment First

At the core of the housing first model is the belief that everyone deserves stable, safe housing. Further, proponents of a housing first approach hold that mental illness recovery and/or substance use disorder treatment are more effective when the persons involved have a secure, supportive place to live.

By contrast, a treatment first approach requires that people in need must address any substance use or mental health issues prior to receiving housing. In essence, sobriety and/or mental health care are treated as prerequisites for supportive housing. 

The Benefits of the Housing First Model

At RADIAS Health, we believe firmly in a housing first model for a couple of reasons.

On a philosophical level, a housing first approach is one that underscores the inherent dignity and rights of persons served, free of conditions. Housing first also emphasizes the importance of client choice, allowing the person served to take an active role in improving their life. 

Further, data and research support the effectiveness of the housing first approach. One 2010 study compared outcomes between groups of housing first and treatment first clinics. The housing first group were significantly less likely to engage in substance use than the treatment first group. Furthermore, the housing first participants were also less likely to prematurely leave the program. 

RADIAS Health provides person-centered integrated healthcare services to people experiencing mental illness, substance use, or co-occurring disorders. Compassionate, skilled health care and support staff deliver our behavioral health services. In addition, our care includes supplementary services such as case management, supportive housing, homeless services, residential services, outpatient DBT treatment, and more. If you or someone you know could benefit from our mission, contact us today or consider donating!

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