(For a more full report www.ncmha.org)

The next White House Conference on Aging(WHCoA) will occur during 2005. The last conference in 1995 included very little on mental health and substance abuse.
The National Coalition on Mental and Aging developed recommendations about these issues . The following are its recommendations as resolutions to be presented at the conference:

Services and Interventions

1 Assure access to an affordable and comprehensive range of quality mental health and substance abuse services including;

  • Outreach
  • Home and community based care
  • Prevention
  • Intervention
  • Acute care
  • Long-term care

2. Assure that these services are age appropriate, culturally competent and consumer driven

3. Amend statutes that address public and private health and long-term care insurance plans to:

  • Guarantee parity in coverage and reimbursement for mental health, physical health, and substance abuse disorders.
  • Eliminate exclusions abased on pre-existing conditions.
  • Ensure that benefits packages provide full access to a comprehensive range of coordinated and quality services.
  • Ensure that older persons who are eligible for Medicare have access to a full range of medications.

4. Improve and effectively coordinate benefits, at all government levels, for those individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

5. Promote the development and implementation of home and community-based care as an alternative to institutionalization through a variety of public and private funding mechanisms.
6. Promote older mental health and substance abuse services research and coordinate and finance the movement of evidence-based and emerging best practice between research and service delivery.

7. Support the integration older adult mental health and substance abuse services into primary health care and community-based service systems.

8. Promote screening for co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders by primary health care, mental health and substance providers and encourage the development of integrated treatment strategies

9. Increase collaboration among aging, health, mental health and substance abuse consumer organizations, advocacy groups, professional associations, academic institutions, research entities, and all relevant government agencies to promote more effective use of resources and to reduce fragmentation of services.

Education and Development of the Professional Mental Health Workforce

1. Actively seek to attract providers in mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse for older adults by expanding geriatric traineeships for psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, ,counselors, pharmacists, and target national financial incentives such as loan forgiveness programs and continuing education funding.

2. Require that professional mental health or behavioral health education programs that receive federal funding introduce geriatric course work or rotation for all students that includes promotion of evidence based and emerging best practices and skills in treating people with co-occurring mental and addictive disorders.

3. Require federal programs to promote interdisciplinary training and education

4..Encourage states to revise licensing and continuing education requirements so that geriatric mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse is required for all licensed health, mental and social service professionals.

5. Direct the Department of Health and Human Services t refine its approach to technology transfer in geriatric mental health and behavioral health evidence-based and emerging best practices to ensure that knowledge is translated more rapidly into the content of training curricula, that curricula employ teaching methods of demonstrated effectiveness, and that knowledge about effective education, recruitment, and retention strategies inform all public and private efforts to translate science to services.

6. Eliminate disparities in reimbursement between geriatric mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse practice and other areas of mental health and health care practice.

Consumer and Caregiver Issues

1. Recommendation 1.1 of the 2003 Presidents New Freedom Commission on Mental Health final Report, which seeks to advance and implement a national campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness include an emphasis on older adults and seeking care as well as a national strategy for suicide prevention.

2. A public/private education campaign be initiated under Health and Human Services to educate consumers, family members, providers and the public on healthy aging and mental wellness and the identification and promise of effective treatments for mental health disorders in older adults incorporating consumer choice/empowerment and involving consumers as educators.

3. Older adults be identified as a priority for public mental health an substance abuse program funding.

4. Research be conducted to assess the efficacy of prevention and treatment approaches for older adults(including peer support groups).

5. Evidence based, best emerging practices, and value based mental health and substance abuse outreach, prevention, and treatment services for older adults be made available, accessible, and affordable and be provided by people trained and experienced working with older adults.

6. Providers deliver services that are linguistically, culturally, ethnically, and age appropriate.

7. The role of caregivers be recognized and supportive services be provided e.g. support groups, respite care, and counseling.