The Minnesota Department of Health recently collaborated with the Health, Homelessness, and Criminal Justice Lab at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute to conduct the first systematic examination of mortality among people experiencing homelessness (PEH) who die in Minnesota (Minnesota Homeless Mortality Report, 2017-2021 (state.mn.us)). The researchers merged Minnesota state death data, Minnesota Homeless Management Information System data, and Minnesota population data from the Census from 2017- 2021 to compare sociodemographic differences and causes of death among PEH and the general Minnesota population. The analysis showed that PEH have mortality rates three times higher than the general Minnesota population and American Indian PEH have mortality rates 5 times higher than the general Minnesota population. Substance use was the leading cause of death among people experiencing homelessness, accounting for more than one in three of all deaths observed during the study period. PEH were 10 times more likely to die from a substance-use related cause than the general Minnesota population. This work was done through MDH’s Center of Excellence on Public Health and Homelessness with funding by the CDC Foundation. The Center’s Advisory Group, which includes people with lived experience, clinicians, public health officials, and homeless service providers, informed the study design, data interpretation, and public engagement of the results. MDH also conducted interviews with people with lived experience to better understand the stories behind the data. The interviews demonstrate the importance of trauma and adverse childhood experience in people’s life trajectories.
Speakers: Katherine Diaz-Vickery: Medical Director, Clinician-Investigator, Hennepin County Health Care for the Homeless; Jonda Crum: Certified Peer Recovery Specialist — Forensic Endorsed, Minnesota Recovery Connection; Josh Leopold: Minnesota Department of Health