Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mental Health Workforce Can't Meet Needs of Elderly Americans

Nearly 1 in 5 older Americans have a mental health or substance abuse disorder, but the mental health care workforce falls far short of the number needed to treat these individuals, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). And with the number of adults aged 65 or older poised to soar over the next two decades, the shortage of geriatric mental health professionals will approach crisis levels. The IOM pointed out that for decades policymakers have warned that trained geriatric specialists are especially needed to provide mental health care and that along with inadequate numbers, there is also "insufficient workforce diversity and lack of basic competence and core knowledge in key areas."

APA issued a statement saying it "strongly supports" the IOM report, which is titled "The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?" and includes recommendations to help ameliorate the building crisis. Among those is that professional organizations need to set standards for training in this area. APA President and geriatric psychiatrist Dilip Jeste, M.D., responded to the report, saying, "We hope that necessary changes are implemented soon to provide badly needed care to one of the most disenfranchised sectors of our society."

Jeste discussed mental health issues for older individuals in a recent issue of Psychiatric News. Read much more on the subject in American Psychiatric Publishing's Essentials of Geriatric Psychiatry, Second Edition.

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