Barriers to Mental Health Services for Older Adults

Prevalence rates of mental health problems among older adults range from 13% to 25%.  Yet barriers to treatment are multiple including: negative societal regard toward aging and mental illness; negative attitudes of older persons about mental health problems and services, including stigma, fear of loss of independence, misperceptions about treatment; practical limitations like reimbursement and transportation problems, inadequate professional training, lack of research on alternative treatment modalities, unresponsive organizational structures, and inadequate outreach.
This study seeks to: examine the role of these barriers in mental health services utilization; and, test whether providing these services in normative settings (senior centers, nutrition sites, and congregate housing programs) as compared to traditional mental health clinics could improve mental health outcomes such as participation, compliance, and goal achievement.
On-site services are already being delivered and this research will generate comparative data to refine a model of mental health service delivery to improve access services to older adults, family members, and aging-service and health care providers.  The principal investigator is Dr. Denise Burnette, and the Co-Investigator is Ms. Evelyn Blanck.  The study is funded through the Center's Research Development Program.  A proposal for this research was submitted in January, 1993 to the Retirement Research Foundation requesting $102,000 over two years.  Although this proposal was not funded efforts to secure external funding to conduct this study continue. 

The study was described in the 1993 issue of Practice & Research.