Formerly IGSW News | VOLUME 24 | SUMMER 2017

From the Director

Skills for 'first responders'

New CADER Program Will Train Members
of Clergy in Aging and Mental Health

By Bronwyn Keefe

Bronwyn KeefeOver the past ten years, CADER has successfully trained thousands of aging-services professionals in the skills required to identify and address older adults' mental (or "behavioral") health needs. Now, members of the clergy will receive a similar training through a new program CADER is developing across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, funded by the Department of Public Health. We are excited about this timely and appropriate project.

The number of older adults with mental health concerns has more than doubled over the past 45 years, while the care system has not kept pace. In Massachusetts, for example, 29 percent of older adults report being depressed, with a rate closer to 40 percent in some areas. Older adults with mental health or substance use problems have greater disability rates, poorer health outcomes, and higher rates of hospitalization and emergency use.

The need to link older adults with mental health services is great—and often unmet. The reason is that too few of those who are in a position to help have the necessary skills. Our experience training aging-services providers in behavioral health convinces us that members of the clergy are another excellent source of workers who are already in touch with older adults and can benefit from CADER's proven learning programs.

'First responders.' Like those who work in aging services, members of the clergy are often the first to be confronted with an older adult's mental health concern. Indeed, many studies show that more Americans, especially older adults, turn to members of the clergy than to mental health professionals for support during episodes of stress, depression, or grief.

The clergy report heavy demands to provide help with mental health issues, with many saying they feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped for the task. Studies also show that members of the clergy do not receive training in aging, and, like many aging-services providers, do not receive training in behavioral health. Without training, mental health issues go unrecognized, undiagnosed, and untreated. Members of the clergy have the position and the inclination to respond. Now they will have the training.

The CADER Clergy Behavioral Health in Aging Program will aim to develop participants' abilities to recognize signs and symptoms of common mental health and substance use problems in older adults, and to intervene, recommend resources, and make referrals as needed.

The curriculum will consist of five proven-effective CADER online courses from our Behavioral Health in Aging Certificate Program. These courses allow participants the flexibility they need, and are complemented by two face-to-face sessions. A group from the clergy and other faith leaders will co-facilitate the face-to-face sessions and is currently advising us on course content and recruiting course participants. The training is expected to begin next year. We'll keep you posted.

Bronwyn Keefe, Ph.D., is interim director of CADER and research assistant professor, School of Social Work, Boston University.

Boston University photo of Bronwyn Keefe

CADER Behavioral Health in Aging Certificate

With CADER's Behavioral Health in Aging Certificate Program, social workers and other health and social service providers develop the skills they need to understand, identify, and respond to older adults who have cognitive and behavioral health concerns in any practice setting. The program is flexible, with online and face-to-face courses. Topics include dementia, depression, suicide prevention, and substance use and abuse. For more information or to sign up (use code ENEWS2017 for a 10 percent discount).

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Copyright © 2017 Trustees of Boston University. All rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated or distributed in any form without written permission from the publisher: Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research, Boston University School of Social Work, 264 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, U.S.A.; e-mail: