(HealthDay News) – As the geriatric population increases, the prevalence of geriatric mental health/substance use (MH/SU) disorders is increasing, necessitating changes.

Dan Blazer, MD, MPH, PhD, from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, and colleagues from an IOM-convened 16-member committee assessed the mental and behavioral health care needs of Americans aged >65 years.

The committee found that about 14–20% of the elderly population have one or more MH/SU conditions. Many also have acute and chronic physical health conditions or cognitive and functional impairment. The unique characteristics of geriatric MH/SU create distinct requirements for workforce competency, and demographic trends are likely to affect the prevalence of MH/SU disorders and the need for services. The number of providers entering, working in, and remaining in the field of geriatric MH/SU seems very small. Recommendations for dealing with the increasing prevalence of geriatric MH/SU include payment reform and other measures to improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries; exposure to MH/SU in training by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the central agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tasked with training health personnel; and increasing funding for research of geriatric MH/SU.

“Congress and the HHS Secretary must act to establish a locus of responsibility for geriatric MH/SU, to invigorate investment in the human capital that is the geriatric MH/SU workforce, to catalyze basic system redesign to allow for effective deployment of geriatric MH/SU personnel, and to stimulate essential research to inform the education and training of personnel and workforce planning itself,” the authors write.

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