From the Editor

With the shelter system overcrowded, my patient slept the previous four nights in the train station. “Where else was I to go?” Many major cities across North America have seen a rise in the number of those who are chronically homeless. Housing First – the idea that stable housing is needed for people to better access health care – is one option, though the concept has been increasingly criticized. Is it a good fit for our urban problems?

In the first selection from Health Affairs, Devlin Hanson and Sarah Gillespie (both of the Urban Institute) consider Housing First for a specific population: the chronically homeless population who have had frequent arrests and jail stays; most of them, not surprisingly, have major mental illness or substance problems. Hanson and Gillespie analyzed data from Denver, Colorado, where people were randomized into Housing First or a control group. “We found that within the two-year study period, people in the intervention group had significantly more office-based care for psychiatric diagnoses, fewer ED visits, more unique medications, and greater use of other health care than people in the control group.” We review the study and its implications.

Denver: mountains, fresh air, and Housing First

In the second selection, Hai V. Nguyen (of Memorial University) and his co-authors look at safe supply and opioid outcomes in British Columbia. In a JAMA Internal Medicine paper, they used data from that province, contrasting it with Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and focused on the number of prescriptions and hospitalizations. “Two years after its launch, the Safer Opioid Supply Policy in British Columbia was associated with higher rates of prescribing of opioids but also with a significant increase in opioid-related hospitalizations.”

Delirium is common in the elderly admitted to hospital, and antipsychotics are often prescribed. In the third selection, Dr. Christina Reppas-Rindlisbacher (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors comment on use of this medication in aCMAJ Practice paper. They offer much advice, including: “They should be prescribed at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration and be reevaluated at or shortly after discharge.”


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