How does poverty impact treatment engagement for individuals who have SMI?

Experiencing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and/or living in a disadvantaged neighborhood can have negative consequences for the treatment engagement of people who have SMI. For example, people who have SMI and who live in geographically concentrated poverty and experience disproportionately higher exposure to stressors tend to have less access to mental health services compared to their wealthier counterparts. Yet, it is this underprivileged demographic that has a greater need for mental health services. This is in part because geographic inaccessibility and financial barriers lessen access to mental health services, resulting in lower treatment engagement. Additionally, people who have low incomes may be less likely to have personal cars or may be heavily dependent on unreliable public transportation, and therefore face even greater difficulty accessing treatment. For instance, they may struggle to attend appointments if they lack readily available transportation.

Learn more about how poverty can affect participants in Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) in a new guide, How Poverty Can Impact AOT Participants, created by SMI Adviser in partnership with Treatment Advocacy Center.




Hodgkinson, S., Godoy, L., Beers, L. S., & Lewin, A. (2017). Improving Mental Health Access for Low-Income Children and Families in the Primary Care Setting. Pediatrics, 139(1). doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1175

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