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SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 2, Spring 2002
 

Promoting Older Adult Health: Guide Offers Assistance

Inadvertent misuse and abuse of alcohol and medications. Depression. Anxiety. These problems often are overlooked in adults age 65 and older by service providers, family members, and even by older adults themselves.

To assist in addressing these issues, SAMHSA and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) partnered to produce a guide for community-based organizations that help seniors.

The new guide, Promoting Older Adult Health: Aging Network Partnerships to Address Medication, Alcohol and Mental Health Problems, provides concrete, practical guidance for mental health, substance abuse, primary care, and aging services providers to help them join together to provide education, prevention, screening, referrals, and treatment for seniors experiencing or at risk for substance abuse and mental problems.

"As many as 17 percent of older adults are affected by alcohol and/or prescription drug misuse, and an estimated 20 percent of older adults experience mental disorders that are not a normal part of aging. Yet, older adults often are reluctant to seek help for these preventable and treatable problems," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W. "This guide helps facilitate collaborations among mental health, substance abuse, and aging services providers to the benefit of millions of older Americans."

"There are innovative program models and creative funding strategies described in this book," said James P. Firman, NCOA president and CEO. "However, the real success of this joint effort will be measured in the improved quality of life for countless older Americans, both today and for decades to come."

The guide identifies programs across the country that link with community partners to provide seniors with needed support without requiring individual organizations to commit large amounts of staff time or money. It highlights how these programs operate and offers lessons from their successes. Finally, it shows how a direct approach to addressing medication, alcohol, and mental problems among older adults can enhance the capabilities of aging services and foster healthy aging in older adults.

The guide is based on findings of a national search by the NCOA to identify exemplary programs that make the needed service linkages. Fifteen programs are profiled in depth and an additional 25 noted. National and state contact information is provided to help organizations find resources and advice.

NCOA is a national, nonprofit group of individuals and organizations that promotes the dignity, independence, well-being, and contributions of older people. NCOA's members include senior centers, area agencies on aging, adult day services providers, faith congregations, senior housing agencies, health centers, employment services organizations, and consumer organizations.

The publication (HHS Publication No. MS 02-3628) is available free from SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). For more information on SAMHSA services for older adults, visit www.samhsa.gov. Or visit www.ncoa.org.

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