Abstract: Spatial Barriers Assessment of Community Mental Health Services (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

734P Spatial Barriers Assessment of Community Mental Health Services

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Lalit Khandare, PhD, MPhil, MSW, Assistant Professor, Pacific University, Eugene, OR
Timothy Burns, MSW, Researcher, Pacific University, Eugene, OR

Many individuals throughout our community face barriers to accessing community mental health services. One commonly overlooked barrier for individuals in need of mental health services is access to transportation to and from community social services. This project aims to examine local public transit and their proximity to these services to determine if a barrier exists. These resources mapping is conducted by GIS analysis and other secondary source data.


This program targets homeless individual's access to community mental health services in XXX County to determine locational barriers that negatively impact client populations. By utilizing geographic information system software (GIS) to map community-based mental health systems of care in regards to their placement within XXX County, we performed an assessment of service locations and the number of homeless individuals in those areas to determine if barriers to access due to transportation or geographic placement exist.

This research began by developing a database of all community mental health service locations and areas that provide housing for homeless individuals. Areas identified as nontraditional campsites are considered to determine locations of homeless populations that do not utilize provided shelter locations. This information was geocoded and mapped on to an outlay of XXX County. GIS methods helped in visible representation of mental health location, spatial distances from their homeless location, and explore barriers to mental health services.


Oregon has the second largest homeless population without shelter in USA, that include 84% chronically homeless, 64.4% unaccompanied homeless youth and 55% homeless veterans (Henry, M., Watt, R., Rosenthal, L., Shivji, A. & Abt Associates, 2016). According to the 2017 Annual Homeless Point in Time Count 1,529 individuals in XXX county of Oregon were homeless (LCHS, 2017). Among these group, 442 individuals were staying in emergency shelter, 84 individuals were living in transitional housing (up to 24 months) designated for people who are homeless and 1,003 men, women, and children were without shelter. Of the total 1,529 homeless individuals in XXX County, 435 (28.4%) reported having a mental illness. With the number of homeless individuals in XXX county increasing by five percent from the 2016 Point-In-Time count, and a total of 32 percent increase from the 2011 Point-In-Time count, it is of the greatest importance that we work to address lack of access to community mental health services for this vulnerable population. The finding shows that the geographic urban space has more concentration of urban poor homeless population and these areas also has more concentration of homeless population. However, the rural regions have less services and hence the underserved population who is relatively less may tend to migrate to urban centers. The results further show the locations and mapping of the services and transport locations.

Conclusion and Implication:

By empowering individuals and fostering organizational collaboration, we aim to reduce barriers that may arise for individuals seeking mental health services. Understanding where these services are located within XXX County allows us to see what areas may be lacking access to services due to geographic spacing.