IOM Announces New Study: The Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations

Published Tuesday, February 15, 2011 7:00 am
AAGP Advocated for Comprehensive Study of Mental Health Care Workforce Needed for Older Adults

This week, the Institute of Medicine announced the formation of a new consensus study, The Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations, and the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry lauds the efforts of its volunteers who advocated for a study to examine the mental health care workforce needed for a growing older population.

The IOM will seek to determine the mental and behavioral health care needs of Americans who are over 65 years of age and make policy recommendations for meeting those needs through a competent and well-trained mental health workforce, especially in light of the projected doubling of the aged population by 2030. According to the IOM, it will:

• Provide a systematic and trend analysis of the current and projected mental and behavioral health care needs of Americans 65 years and older.

• Within the older population, consider the special needs of growing ethnic populations, of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and of persons with chronic disease.

• Weigh the impact of improved diagnostic techniques, of addressing mental health issues as part of effective chronic disease management, and of the implementation of the Federal mental health parity law on meeting the mental health needs of older Americans.

IOM recommendations will take into consideration forces that shape the health care workforce, such as education, training, modes of practice, and the financing of public and private programs.

Concerned about the diminishing numbers of mental health care workers trained in geriatrics, AAGP has strongly advocated for this study for several years. AAGP initiated the request for an aging and mental health study to complement the IOM's 2008 broad study of the geriatric workforce, titled Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce, when it became clear that the parameters of the first study would not be able to consider mental health with the depth that is needed. AAGP was joined in this effort by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers.

“This study will be immensely helpful as we work to best meet the needs of the increasing numbers of older adults with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse,” explained AAGP President Jeffrey M. Lyness, MD.

Funding for the upcoming study was approved in December 2009 and included in the Fiscal Year 2010 omnibus appropriations bill.

The study committee will hold its first meeting March 7-8 in Washington, D.C. Learn more at:

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry ( is a national association representing and serving its members and the field of geriatric psychiatry. AAGP’s mission is to enhance the knowledge base and standard of practice in geriatric psychiatry through education and research and to advocate for meeting the mental health needs of older Americans.