Building a role for occupational therapy in homelessness
Thomure, Anderson Ryan
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Homelessness is an emerging role area for occupational therapy. In the United States, occupational therapy is under-represented in all mental health settings from inpatient psychiatry to community mental health. Homelessness services represent an even narrower niche in which occupational therapists are qualified to provide evidence-based, client-centered services designed to increase safety and independence. This proposal is intended to demonstrate occupational therapy’s distinct value in being of service to people affected by homelessness. Specifically, Building a Role for Occupational Therapy in Homelessness (B.R.O.T.H.) envisions occupational therapy as a profession that is well-suited to provide services to people affected by homelessness who have been re-housed back into the community through work with housing focused social service agencies. Clinically, this B.R.O.T.H. provides a model from which occupational therapists can create a role in serving this population through the use of short-term occupational therapy treatment focused on improving skills of independent living by performing them in the natural environment (i.e., the client’s apartment). By focusing on tasks such as meal preparation, medication management, and appointment adherence, money management in the client’s natural environment, the occupational therapy practitioner will assist the client in gaining the skills they need to remain safe and independent in the community. Similarly, B.R.O.T.H. proides a framework through which such programs could be funded. Because occupational therapy practitioners typically command higher salaries than other social service staff such as social workers and case managers, the program provides recommendations around seeking out and applying for relevant grants and other funding sources to support approximately half of the occupational therapy practitioners salary. Most importantly, B.R.O.T.H proposes a program that uses evidence-based, highly-skilled occupational therapy services to improve the lives of people affected by homelessness. Project outcomes are targeted exclusively at improvement of the lives of the people served. At its foundation, this B.R.O.T.H rests on the belief that occupational therapy has a distinct value in improving this country’s homelessness crisis and the lives of those affected by it.