Background: There is a significant revolving door of incarceration among homeless adults. Homeless adults who receive professional coordination of individualized care (ie, case management) during the period following their release from jail experience fewer mental health and substance use problems, are more likely to obtain stable housing, and are less likely to be reincarcerated. This is because case managers work to meet the various needs of their clients by helping them to overcome barriers to needed services (eg, food, clothing, housing, job training, substance abuse and mental health treatment, medical care, medication, social support, proof of identification, and legal aid). Many barriers (eg, limited transportation, inability to schedule appointments, and limited knowledge of available services) prevent homeless adults who were recently released from incarceration from obtaining available case management, crisis management, substance abuse, and mental health services.
Objective: The aim of the Link2Care study is to assess the effectiveness of a smartphone app for increasing case management and treatment service utilization, and in turn reduce homelessness and rearrest. The goals of this research are to (1) assess the impact of an innovative smartphone app that will prompt and directly link recently incarcerated homeless adults to community-based case management services and resources and (2) utilize in-person and smartphone-based assessments to identify key variables (eg, alcohol or drug use, social support, psychological distress, and quality of life) that predict continued homelessness and rearrest.
Methods: Homeless adults (N=432) who enroll in a shelter-based Homeless Recovery Program after release from the Dallas County Jail will be randomly assigned to one of the three treatment groups: (1) usual case management, (2) usual case management plus smartphone, and (3) usual case management with a study-provided smartphone that is preloaded with an innovative case management app (smartphone-based case management). Those assigned to smartphone-based case management will receive smartphones that prompt (twice weekly) connections to shelter-based case managers. The app will also offer direct links to case managers (available during normal business hours) and crisis interventionists (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) with the touch of a button.
Results: Recruitment began in the spring of 2018, and data collection will conclude in 2021.
Conclusions: This research represents an important step toward integrated service connection and health care service provision for one of the most underserved, high need, and understudied populations in the United States.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03399500; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03399500 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6zSJwdgUS)
Registered Report Identifier: RR1-10.2196/9868
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
This research and preparation of this manuscript were supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (1R01MD01073301A1, PIs: MSB, JRG) and the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (092-016-0002; support for the mHealth shared resource).
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Peer review summary statement.
Reingle Gonzalez, Jennifer M.; Businelle, Michael S.; Kendzor, Darla; Staton, Michele; North, Carol S.; and Swartz, Michael, "Using mHealth to Increase Treatment Utilization Among Recently Incarcerated Homeless Adults (Link2Care): Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial" (2018). Behavioral Science Faculty Publications. 29.