Current Resources Inadequate for Geriatric Mental Health

Increased funding, more resource training, research necessary to deal with growing population

WEDNESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- As the geriatric population increases, the prevalence of geriatric mental health/substance use (MH/SU) disorders is increasing, necessitating changes, according to a report published July 10 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Dan Blazer, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., and colleagues from an IOM-convened 16-member committee assessed the mental and behavioral health care needs of Americans aged 65 years and older.

The committee found that about 14 to 20 percent of the elderly population have one or more MH/SU conditions. Many also have acute and chronic physical health conditions or cognitive and functional impairment. The unique characteristics of geriatric MH/SU create distinct requirements for workforce competency, and demographic trends are likely to affect the prevalence of MH/SU disorders and the need for services. The number of providers entering, working in, and remaining in the field of geriatric MH/SU seems very small. Recommendations for dealing with the increasing prevalence of geriatric MH/SU include payment reform and other measures to improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries; exposure to MH/SU in training by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the central agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tasked with training health personnel; and increasing funding for research of geriatric MH/SU.

"Congress and the HHS Secretary must act to establish a locus of responsibility for geriatric MH/SU, to invigorate investment in the human capital that is the geriatric MH/SU workforce, to catalyze basic system redesign to allow for effective deployment of geriatric MH/SU personnel, and to stimulate essential research to inform the education and training of personnel and workforce planning itself," the authors write.

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