The MHA is proud to announce we are the recipient of a challenge grant from the Long Island Community Foundation to address the mental health needs of senior citizens in Nassau County. A summary of the project is below.
The Mental Health Association of Nassau County is embarking on a special project concerning the mental health needs of Long Island’s older citizens. Through a challenge grant from the Long Island Community Fund, we intend to support a community organizing and education effort to raise awareness of the mental health needs of Long Island’s seniors and to promote community-wide planning (here in Nassau with outreach to partners in Suffolk County) to address those needs. In order to accomplish this, the MHA is forming the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of Nassau County which will reach out to a vast array of people in fields such as mental health, aging, health, drug and alcohol, senior centers, nursing homes, home health care agencies, government, academics and advocates. We will also collaborate closely with the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York to bring about the development of statewide policy and practice initiatives to meet the mental health needs of older adults.
The mental health system currently does not adequately address the needs of seniors with mental health disorders and those needs are projected to skyrocket in the coming years. According to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Census (2000), the number of adults in the country aged 65 and over is growing quickly and will double nationally in the next thirty years from 35 million to 70 million – about 20% of the country’s population. Subsequently, the number of seniors with mental disorders is also projected to double in that time period from 7 million to 14 million. In Nassau County, the population over aged 65 is just over 200,000. In fact, Nassau has a larger percentage of people over age 65 (15%) than does the State of New York (12.9%). These numbers indicate an urgent need to prepare the mental health system to meet the explosive mental health needs of the elderly including a growing proportion of seniors from minority cultures.
In order to prevent a crisis occurring in the near future, New York must address major issues which include:
- Development of housing models to enable seniors to live in their community of origin if they choose;
- Provide screening programs to help in the diagnosis of mental disorders;
- Integration of the mental health, health and aging systems;
- Increase the training of healthcare providers to recognize the symptoms of mental disorders and attain up-to-date information on available treatments
> Provide for delivery of mental health services in primary care sites and home settings and delivery of health care in mental health sites;
- Address the acute shortage of adequately trained mental health professionals;
- Create preventative services including prevention of suicide which is 50% higher in older adults than the general population;
- Outreach of multiculturally competent services to minority seniors;
- Public education to overcome stigma about mental illness and the elderly in order to dispel the belief that mental illness is a natural state of growing older;
- Research to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia;
- Increased funding and reversal of discriminatory mental health benefits under the Medicare system;
- Support for the family caregivers of seniors with mental and behavioral disorders
The Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of Nassau County will begin to accomplish our goals by a series of interviews with people in Nassau County who have an interest in the mental health of the geriatric population. From those meetings, we will invite stakeholders to participate in focus groups to prioritize issues, ascertain best practices, identify barriers to meeting the mental health needs of seniors and develop strategies to overcome these obstacles. The Alliance will work closely with academic partners to gather information and conduct research on the needs of seniors with mental illnesses in Nassau and we will form work groups to examine emerging issues.
The goals of the Alliance will include:
- Building a network of people from varied backgrounds who have an interest in meeting the needs of seniors with mental health needs,
- Promoting integration of training and services between mental health and physical health providers,
- Seeking ways to reduce and prevent the incidence of mental illness in the senior population,
- Reducing the ignorance, stigma and discrimination related to mental illness and educating the public about the effectiveness of treatment,
- Advocating with local and state governments to include elder services in their planning,
- Identifying and reaching out to partners in Suffolk County to form a broader Long Island-based alliance,
- Presenting a series of trainings based on best practices for mental health professionals and other professionals from areas such as aging and health,
- Planning a downstate conference on the issue of geriatric mental health in collaboration with the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York.
To accomplish this ambitious agenda over the next two years, The MHA is seeking partners among the provider, governmental and consumer communities. Inquiries about participation are welcome.
If you would like more information or would like to join the Geriatric MH Alliance, please contact us at email@example.com.