Occupational therapists have a long history of addressing community performance and participation challenges faced by individuals with complex, chronic conditions, including those with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and cognitive issues that present with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Healthcare reform has shifted incentives to support practices that promote successful community life for people with complex medical conditions. Community based care models emphasizing integrated primary care, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) are emerging, and a generalist role for occupational therapy is being defined. Those with complex comorbid conditions such as mental illness, substance abuse and traumatic brain injury are at risk for negative health outcomes that are further compounded by homelessness. There is a critical need to understand effective treatment options for this population to reduce the negative effects of chronic health conditions. As occupational therapists further define a role serving traditional clients in less traditional settings, such as the FQHC, it is helpful to explore the perceptions of the utility of OT services on the part of provider referrers.
This study explored provider referrer perceptions of a new occupational therapy service for homeless adults in an FQHC to assist effective allocation of scarce resources.
Twelve provider referrers at an FQHC were interviewed regarding their perception of the role and utility of occupational therapy in this setting. Interviews were then coded for themes.
Providers identified the unique value of occupational therapy, emphasizing critical information gleaned from the performance-based assessment of functional cognition, and the positive impact on team interactions and subsequent care decisions.
Occupational therapy provides a distinct perspective on client performance in FQHC settings indicating benefit for inclusion of services.