Policy Academy Strives To Improve Services for Older Adults
With SAMHSA's help, the National Governors Association
(NGA) recently sponsored a Policy Academy focused on
improving services to older Americans—Rebalancing
Long-Term Care Systems Toward Quality Community Living
and Healthy Aging.
After a competitive application process, eight state
teams came together in Denver to create plans for shifting
their states' long-term care systems away from nursing
homes and toward community-based services such as home
health care, adult day care, and assisted living. SAMHSA,
plus the Administration on Aging and Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, helped fund and plan the project.
"Older adults are one of the focus areas on SAMHSA's
Matrix of Priorities," explained Public Health Analyst
Lisa J. Park, M.S.W., of SAMHSA's Office of Policy, Planning,
and Budget. "We want to help older Americans receive
mental health, substance abuse treatment, and other services
in their own homes and communities."
More an ongoing process than a single event, the academy
began with NGA helping participants prepare during visits
to Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New
Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia. Meanwhile, SAMHSA and
its two partners brought together other Federal Agencies
to alert them to the effort.
Then state directors of health, aging, Medicaid, mental
health, and substance abuse; governors' health policy
advisors; legislators; advocates; and others came together
to craft plans with help from faculty experts.
The Vermont team, for example, created a plan designed
to prevent substance misuse and abuse, and mental disorders,
while promoting healthy behaviors such as physical activity.
This plan could help older adults avoid many problems,
including placement in institutions.
Other states focused on using Medicaid waivers to provide
home- and community-based services to specific populations,
such as older people with mental illnesses. The teams
are now receiving technical assistance from NGA and academy
faculty, and have applied for small "seed money" grants
to help them start putting their plans into action.
"This work is something SAMHSA would like to do with
all the states. That's our hope," said Ms. Park.
For more information about SAMHSA's services for older
adults, visit www.samhsa.gov.
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