Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Gregory A. Hinrichsen, PhD, chair of APA's Committee on Aging, emphasized the need for better integration of mental and physical health-care services for aging Americans at a May 25 congressional briefing to promote the Positive Aging Act of 2005 and other effective intervention and policy efforts that address older adults' mental health needs.
The Older Women's League (OWL) sponsored the briefing with APA and other partner organizations in recognition of Older Americans' Mental Health Week.
The Positive Aging Act of 2005 aims to make mental health services for older adults an integral part of primary-care services in community settings and to extend them to other settings where seniors reside and receive services.
"Too many older adults with mental health problems in this country are going undiagnosed and untreated because of a disconnect between health care and mental health care," said Clinton, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). "We owe it to our seniors to do all that we can to ensure that high-quality mental health care is both available and accessible."
Clinton said that the bill would improve diagnosis and treatment by making vital mental health services available to seniors who need them most.
Before Clinton's remarks, Hinrichsen, who is also the director of psychology training at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., emphasized that two-thirds of older Americans with mental health problems do not receive treatment, even though most of their conditions are treatable.
"When I entered the field of aging in the 1970s, it was an open question whether older people with mental disorders could improve with existing treatments," he said. "Since then...psychotherapies for mental health problems have become much more sophisticated, as have psychiatric medications to treat mental health problems. Research studies...have demonstrated that older people can be successfully treated."
Hinrichsen also underscored the need to increase people's access to mental health care.
"People are much more likely to access care that is on the same site as primary-care doctors," he said. "And on-site mental health specialists can provide care that is evidence-based and reflects best practices."
OWL Executive Director Laurie Young, PhD, and Lisa Yogoda, National Association of Social Workers senior policy associate for aging, also spoke at the briefing.
APA's Office on Aging and Public Interest Policy staff arranged Hinrichsen's participation in the briefing and APA congressional fellow Diane Elmore, PhD, who works in Clinton's office, helped coordinate the briefing.
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