Formerly IGSW News | VOLUME 22 | WINTER 2015

Issues and Views

With customized training program for staff

Senior Centers Can Be Gateway to Mental Health Services

By Kathy Kuhn

Among the highest priorities of the new year for many aging services organizations is mental health. The number of older adults with mental health concerns has increased exponentially in the U.S. (more than doubled over the past 45 years), while the care system has not kept pace. Many do not receive the help they need, with access and training the big issues.

One new effort to address this situation shows how senior centers and Councils on Aging—core community service organizations for older adults that are found in many localities—can be gateways to mental health services for older adults and a source of quality onsite mental health training for center staff.

The Mental Health and Aging Project is a collaboration between the Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research at Boston University (CADER) and the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging and Senior Center Directors (MCOA), with funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program. The group came together to provide local solutions to the mental health difficulties of older adults across the state. It focused on senior centers because they serve the entire community. Not only older adults and their families and caregivers, but also friends, neighbors, and law enforcement and healthcare agencies turn to senior centers for assistance when older adults have mental health problems. Because of the complexity of these problems, training in mental health was seen as an essential first step.

Now, in the project's first year, CADER is training staff from senior centers in western and southern Massachusetts with a customized version of the CADER Mental Health Certificate Program. A blended model of online and face-to-face courses and discussion provides a learning experience tailored to the participants' needs. The program is based on the latest in theory, research, and practice. Courses emphasize development of practice skills and include discussions of screening, engagement and relationship formation, assessment, intervention, and resources and referrals. Participants who complete the program receive a certificate and continuing education credits. An additional 100 participants will be added in the second year of the program, which begins next summer.

For more information about the CADER Mental Health Certificate Program, see below. For information about how CADER can customize this certificate program for your organization, contact Frank Fay,

Kathy Kuhn, M.S.W., is director of workforce development at CADER.

Boston University photo of Kathy Kuhn

Are you prepared?

CADER Mental Health Certificate

With CADER's Mental Health Certificate Program, social workers and other health and social service providers develop the skills they need to 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. Focus is on the role of the practitioner, from screening and engagement to resources and referral. Participants receive a certificate and CEUs upon completion. For more information or to sign up (use code ENEWS2015 for a 10 percent discount).

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Copyright © 2015 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: