Letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Urging Support for the Positive Aging Act Language in the Senate Bill to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

July 12, 2006

The Honorable Michael B. Enzi, Chairman                     
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, Ranking Member
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510                                    

Dear Chairman Enzi and Senator Kennedy:

On behalf of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, we would like to thank you for your close attention to the mental health needs of older adults throughout the Older Americans Act reauthorization process. 

As you know, the mental health and aging community has worked collaboratively over the last several years to develop legislative priorities to address the mental health needs of older adults in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act.  In 2004, we worked successfully with the bipartisan-bicameral sponsors of the Positive Aging Act to incorporate our Older Americans Act priorities in the Positive Aging Act.  Since then, the mental health and aging community has worked diligently to promote this consensus legislation as one of our top priorities.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our strong support for the Positive Aging Act language included in the Senate version of the bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.  This language would establish grants to states for multidisciplinary systems to deliver mental health screening and treatment services and for programs to increase public awareness and reduce stigma regarding mental disorders in older adults.  We would also like to acknowledge that similar language, inspired by the Positive Aging Act, was included in the bill that passed the House and express our appreciation to the Committee on Education and the Workforce for leading such a strong showing of bipartisan support. 

We would like to urge you to maintain the Positive Aging Act provisions that were included in the Senate version of the bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act during the House and Senate conference.  In addition, we would like to encourage the strengthening of language in the House bill, which may allow for the designation of an officer to be responsible for mental health services under the Older Americans Act.  It is essential that this language be expanded to reflect the Positive Aging Act provision which would establish an Office of Older Adult Mental Health Services within the Administration on Aging. 

We have created a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, reflective of our joint priorities, as they relate to the Positive Aging Act.  We hope that this document will be helpful as you work to develop a final bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.  Again, we would like to thank you for your ongoing attention to the mental health needs of older Americans, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on these important issues.  Please feel free to contact Diane Elmore, Ph.D., of the American Psychological Association at (202) 336-6104, if we can be helpful in any way.

Sincerely,

American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
American Psychological Association
National Association of Social Workers