July 14, 2009

American Psychological Association Applauds Representatives Kennedy and Ros-Lehtinen for Introducing Positive Aging Act Of 2009

WASHINGTON–The American Psychological Association applauded Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) for introducing the Positive Aging Act of 2009, a longstanding legislative priority for APA that would improve access to quality mental health care for older adults by integrating mental health services into primary care and community settings where older adults reside and receive services.

"The interdisciplinary integrated health care model at the heart of this legislation will go a long way toward meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of our nation's growing population of older adults," said Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer. "By supporting collaboration between mental health providers and colleagues in primary care and community settings, we can improve access to quality mental health care for seniors whose mental health needs might otherwise go unmet."

This bill, which Kennedy first introduced in 2002, reflects a strong bipartisan effort on behalf of our nation’s older adults.

An estimated 20 percent of older adults in the United States have a mental health problem, and up to two-thirds of these individuals do not receive the services they need. Left untreated, mental disorders can have significant consequences, including increases in disease, disability and mortality. In fact, men age 85 and older have the highest rates of suicide in our country and depression is the foremost risk factor. Evidence suggests that up to 75 percent of older adults who commit suicide have visited a primary care professional within 30 days of their death. Although effective treatments exist, the mental health needs of many older Americans go unrecognized and untreated because of separation and fragmentation of physical and mental health in traditional health care settings.

The Positive Aging Act of 2009 will address the mental health needs of older adults by amending the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to:

  • support demonstration projects to promote integration of mental health services in primary care settings;

  • support grants for community-based mental health treatment outreach teams;

  • designate a deputy director for Older Adult Mental Health Services in the Center for Mental Health Services;

  • include representatives of older Americans or their families and geriatric mental health professionals on the Advisory Council for the Center for Mental Health Services;

  • include targeting substance abuse in older adults in projects of national significance; and

  • require state plans under Community Mental Health Services Block Grants to include descriptions of the states’ outreach to and services for older individuals.

APA continues to advocate for the inclusion of the Positive Aging Act in health-care reform, as this legislation would enhance access to services and improve the quality of care for older adults by integrating mental health services into primary care and community settings.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.