NASW co-sponsors IOM report briefing

Nov 14, 2012

By Rena Malai, News staff

NASW co-sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing in September to present findings and recommendations from the July 2012 Institute of Medicine report “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?”

The Hill briefing, “Building the Mental Health Workforce for America’s Diverse Aging Population,” was held in cooperation with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. Three members of the IOM report committee were presenters: social worker Maria Aranda, Chairman Dan Blazer and Michael Hoge.

One of the committee’s findings was that there will be a greater number of older adults with dementia and associated behavioral and psychological symptoms in the future, and the use of illicit drugs among older adults is likely to increase — especially marijuana use and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

“The charge to the committee is to determine the needs of this population in order to make policy and research recommendations for meeting these needs through a competent and well-trained workforce,” Blazer said.

The workforce involved with care of older adults with mental health and substance use conditions includes nurses, social workers, physicians, physicians assistants, geriatric specialists, nondegree direct care workers with on-the-job training, family caregivers, and peer support specialists, Hoge said.

“We look at the issue of training workers and we look at the context,” he said. “We know that treatment works.”

Hoge said training the workforce in evidence-based practices of care for older adults with mental health and substance use problems results in better health care outcomes.

There is a workforce crisis related to this population, he added.

“The number of professionals in training with mental health and substance use problems and geriatrics is very, very small and grossly inadequate to meet the needs of the population,” he said.

The IOM committee made five recommendations to Congress to build this workforce:

  1. Coordinate federal efforts to develop and strengthen the nation’s geriatric mental health/substance use workforce by designating a responsible entity in the Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. HHS should ensure that its agencies assume responsibility for building the capacity and facilitating the deployment of the mental health/substance use workforce for older Americans.
  3. Organizations responsible for accreditation, certification and professional examination, as well as a state licensing boards, should modify their standards, curriculum requirements and credentialing procedures to require professional competence in geriatric mental health/substance use for all levels of personnel that care for older adults.
  4. Appropriate funds for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act workforce provisions that authorize training, scholarship and loan forgiveness for individuals who work with, or who are preparing to work with, older adults who have mental health/substance use conditions.
  5. HHS should direct a responsible entity to develop and coordinate implementation of a data collection and reporting strategy for geriatric mental health/substance use workforce planning.

Aranda also described the multifaceted social work role in caring for older adults with mental health and substance use conditions, the profession’s advances in gerontological education and practice, and the challenges the profession continues to face in recruiting and retaining gerontological social workers.

To view the July IOM report online:

From the November 2012 NASW News.

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