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Article   |    
Characteristics and service use of long-term members of self-help agencies for mental health clients
Psychiatric Services 1995; doi:
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: This study examined the characteristics of long-term members of self-help agencies managed and staffed by mental health clients, why they sought help from the agencies, and how they differed from clients of community mental health agencies. METHODS: A survey and assessment instruments were used to obtain information on the service utilization of 310 long-term agency members as well as on their resources, history of disability, functional status, psychological disability, health problems, and DSM-III-R diagnosis. Data from management information systems of the self-help and community mental health agencies were used to compare service populations. RESULTS: The self-help agencies served a primarily African-American population (64 percent), many of whom were homeless (46 percent). Eighty-seven percent had confirmed DSM-III-R diagnoses, and 50 percent had dual diagnoses with moderate to severe substance or alcohol abuse or dependence. They had sought help from the self-help agencies primarily for resources such as food or clothing, for "a place to be," or because they were homeless. Obtaining counseling or help for substance or alcohol abuse was a less important reason for coming to the self-help agencies. CONCLUSIONS: A high proportion of the persons served by the self-help agencies in the study were homeless and had a dual diagnosis of mental disorder and substance abuse. The self-help agencies provided their clients with material resources while community mental health agencies provided psychotherapeutic and medical care.

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