. Dr. Dan Blazer, is the Chairperson of the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Population. Dr. Blazer discussed a new study done by the Institute of Medicine, titled “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults.” The study concluded that at least 5.6 million to 8 million – nearly one in five – older adults in America have one or more mental health and substance use conditions, which present unique challenges for their care. Unfortunately, the number of individuals working in or entering fields related to geriatric mental health/substance use is disproportionately small.

Research shows that effective delivery of mental health/substance use services to older adults requires these essential ingredients: 1) systematic outreach and diagnosis; 2) patient and family education and self-management support; 3) provider accountability for outcomes; 4) close follow-up and monitoring to prevent relapse. In the study the Institute of Medicine urged Congress to fund the National Health Care Workforce Commission, which was authorized under the Affordable Care Act, to serve as a national resource that focuses on evaluating and meeting the need for health care workers. Central among the commission’s top priorities should be identifying, developing, and refining methods to improve recruitment and retention of geriatric mental health/substance use personnel – and to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of the older adult population that it serves.

The study concludes by stating that the breadth and magnitude of the problem have grown to such proportions that no single approach, nor a few isolated changes in different federal agencies or programs, can adequately address the issue. What is needed is a focused and coordinated action by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.