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Stable housing after leaving rehab increasingly out of reach: research
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  • A new study says better discharge planning and service coordination are needed to provide stable housing security for those leaving rehab
  • According to the findings, young people with health and social problems have a harder time finding affordable accommodation
  • As a result, the research proposes that a more mobile kind of housing aid for young people may be necessary
  • Lead author RMIT Associate Professor Cameron Duff said it is important to support safe transitions from treatment into secure and affordable housing

People with mental health and substance misuse issues who access residential treatment are at greater risk of housing insecurity, and improved discharge planning and service coordination are urgently required.

According to new Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) research, 'Leaving rehab: enhancing transitions into stable housing', undertaken for AHURI by researchers from RMIT University, UNSW Sydney and Curtin University.

The paper examines housing, health and social care supports for individuals leaving residential treatment for mental health or substance use problems.

According to the findings, young people with health and social problems have a harder time finding affordable accommodation.

Due to their relative financial instability, young people are generally less desirable to community housing providers, and social housing frequently binds renters into a specific region, limiting their geographic mobility.

As a result, the research proposes that a more mobile kind of housing aid for young people may be necessary.

Lead author of the research, Associate Professor Cameron Duff of RMIT University said their research strongly supports the housing first model.

"Failure to adequately plan for and support safe transitions from residential treatment into secure and affordable housing can have catastrophic consequences for individuals leaving care, with strong impacts on their housing security, their health and wellbeing, and their economic and social participation in the community," he said.

There is also a pressing need to improve care for those who are hospitalised several times or for an extended period of time, as this can significantly interrupt their private rental housing, the report noted.

Individual rental agreements may necessitate housing help, such as rent payments being subsidised for the period of a person's hospitalisation.

"We also found there are inconsistent and sometimes ineffective discharge planning arrangements for people leaving treatment providers," Associate Professor Duff said.

"A stronger integration of housing, mental health and substance-use treatment services as part of discharge planning for each patient would provide the opportunity for clinical and allied health professionals to liaise more closely with community health and housing service providers to address a patient’s housing needs."

While some people's housing may be secure in terms of tenure, such as in public housing, this does not always imply that their home is safe or appropriate in terms of their health or recovery, the report stated.

For example, living next to other drug users who may affect a patient's therapy from addiction.

People who had completed a treatment programme frequently expressed how these nuances were missed in care planning and transition talks, where their current home was viewed as "good enough" despite reservations about certain features of the housing.

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