Research Spotlight- Fall 2012

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The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?

Duke Investigator: Dan Blazer, MD, PhD

In July 2012, the Institute of Medicine released a consensus report on the increasing number of seniors with mental health and substance abuse issues, and lack of resources to address their growing needs. The report, titled, “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?” stresses the need for a sufficient workforce of health care professionals trained in geriatric mental health and substance abuse care.

Dr. Dan Blazer chaired the Institute of Medicine panel addressing this issue, and co-authored the report. He told the Associated Press, “"The burden of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in older adults in the United States borders on a crisis. Yet this crisis is largely hidden from the public and many of those who develop policy and programs to care for older people." One recommendation of the report is to redesign Medicare and Medicaid payment rules to guarantee coverage of services crucial for treating mental health conditions and substance abuse issues.

Associated PressReport: Too little mental health care for seniors
CNNIOM: Elderly need better access to mental health, substance abuse care
Wall Street Journal, Substance Abuse on the Rise Among Seniors
AARP Blog, The Takeaway: 1 in 5 Older Adults Have Mental Health or Substance Abuse Issues
North Carolina News Network, Duke researchers: silver tsunami coming