AAGP Lauds Release of New IOM Study on the Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults

AAGP Urges Public and Private Institutions to Follow Recommendations to Care for Growing Population of Older Adults with Mental Health and Substance Use Issues

Published Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Today, the Institute of Medicine released a new report outlining the geriatric mental health and substance use workforce needs for the nation. AAGP is pleased that the IOM report, The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?, documents the interaction between chronic physical health and mental health and the growing need for providers trained to care for older adults. AAGP, which advocated for the need for this study beginning in 2008 and its funding, believe this report is critical to help shaping necessary changes in legislation, training, and reimbursement.

AAGP agrees with the IOM that strengthening the health care delivery system to adequately provide quality care for older adults with mental health and substance use issues calls for a multi-pronged approach to:

  • Ensure that general providers at all levels recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use issues
  • Recruit and train providers to care for older adults
  • Strengthen the role of direct care workers
  • Empower older adults and families to advocate for quality care

“The IOM report encourages novel solutions and immediate action to coordinate federal and private efforts in providing care, promoting research and incentivizing training in geriatric mental health to adequately meet the needs of an elderly population expected to rise above 70 million people by 2030,” said Paul D.S. Kirwin, MD, president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. He noted, “The recommendations are specific, evidenced based, ambitious in their scope, and prescient for the geriatric mental health care needs of our nation.”

As a small example of how a modest investment can impact the future workforce to meet the mental health care needs of the geriatric population, in its report, the IOM profiled the GMHF Scholars Program, which is funded by AAGP members.

AAGP urges public and private agencies that have the ability to make a difference to enact the recommendations of the IOM report, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the regulatory bodies responsible for accreditation and certification as well as the private sector.

AAGP has long been concerned about the growth and training of the mental health and substance use workforce needed to care for the nation’s growing older population. This new IOM study came about as a result of AAGP’s advocacy in response to the IOM’s work on its 2008 report titled Retooling For An Aging America: Building The Health Care Workforce, a broad study on the geriatric health care workforce.  AAGP advocated strongly for an aging and mental health study to complement the IOM’s 2008 study, and was joined in this effort by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers. Funding for the study was approved in December 2009 and included in the Fiscal Year 2010 omnibus appropriations bill.

AAGP was pleased that a number of geriatric psychiatrists and other late-life mental health care professionals were appointed to the IOM study committee and that it was chaired by Dan Blazer, MD, an AAGP past president.

AAGP will continue to analyze the report and will release a more detailed summary. We look forward to working with the Congress, federal government, and other entities to realize the recommendations.

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (www.AAGPonline.org) is a national association representing and serving its members and the field of geriatric psychiatry. AAGP promotes the mental health and well-being of older people through professional education, public advocacy, and support of career development for clinicians, educators, and researchers in geriatric psychiatry and mental health.

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Kate McDuffie  |  301.654.7850 x113  |  kmcduffie@aagponline.org

Marj Vanderbilt  |  301.654.7850 x107  |  mvanderbilt@aagponline.org