State Highlights Mental Health Services for Seniors | New

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In May, the state Departments of Aging and Human Services joined the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A) in the fifth annual Seniors Mental Health Awareness Day to highlight the needs in mental health services for an often neglected and underserved population: the elderly. .

“As Pennsylvania’s older adult population continues to grow and diversify, we need to improve resources and supports to meet the mental health needs of this population, which tends to be more socially isolated than other groups. of age,” Aging Secretary Robert Torres said. in a press release “We know that social isolation has a negative impact on older people and can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression which can negatively affect their physical and mental health and lead to an increased risk of mortality. We also need to eliminate any stigma and myth surrounding older adults and mental health that may prevent them from seeking help.

Torres noted that a common myth is that depression is a normal and inevitable part of aging. However, when faced with depression, individuals can often be treated successfully, allowing them to live with a better sense of mental health and well-being. A second mental health myth related to aging is that suicide is only a problem among young people.

“Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Torres said. “According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates are highest among men 65 and older, a clear indication of unmet mental health needs in the older adult community.”

The state budget included $100 million for adult mental health services and the creation of a dedicated behavioral health commission to make recommendations on the allocation of funds; plus an additional $100 million for student mental health support to ensure young people in Pennsylvania have all the resources they need to overcome challenges and succeed through Ready to Learn Block Grants.

Additionally, last year, to help fight depression, Pennsylvania became the first state to form and independently administer Healthy IDEAS (Identifying Depression & Empowering Activities for Seniors), a self-management program for evidence-based depression. This program brings together the state’s Aging Network and the mental/behavioral health community to help improve identification of symptoms of depression in older adults and learn how to properly manage depression. The Department of Aging leads this initiative and 14 regional agencies on aging have adopted the program to date.

“The Department of Human Services is facilitating access to mental health care for Pennsylvanians covered by medical assistance through the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services,” Acting Secretary Meg Snead said. “Our goal is to ensure that behavioral health services and supports recognize and meet the unique needs of older adults. The past two years have brought difficult times for many, and now more than ever, we need to prioritize our commitment to our aging community, so that no one has to go through these feelings alone. Check in on those you love as signs of depression or loneliness can go unnoticed, be aware of the many resources available and help them know that while the world may feel isolated, they are not alone.

“The Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging and its AAA members have long recognized the need for older adults to have easy access to mental health and addictions services,” said Rebecca May-Cole, executive director of P4A. “AAA sees need at all levels and types of service delivery such as assessment, care management, protective services, caregiver support programs, housing, transportation and meal delivery. Barriers to access are many and some are very complex. They include stigma, denial, lack of information/knowledge, personal financial limitations, regulatory barriers, limited funding, waiting lists, and prejudice against older adults. The good news is that systems exist to overcome these obstacles. We need to work together to create better connections so older Pennsylvanians can access services. »

“As a country, we recognize that the population is aging due to advances in health care and technology,” said Kristen Houser, DHS Assistant Secretary for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (OMHSAS). “With this comes the reality that the mental health needs and services available to this population must also evolve. Mental health is health care and OMHSAS strives to educate both those who receive services in our facilities as well as health care workers to meet the growing needs for mental health, substance use and other behavioral needs of the aging population.

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