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Monday, June 30, 2003 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

HHS and NCOA Issue New Resource to Improve
Health of Older Adults

The Administration on Aging and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration today announced the availability of the Get Connected! Linking Older Adults with Medication, Alcohol and Mental Health Resource toolkit. These new materials will help providers in the aging services community better cope with issues related to medications, alcohol and emotional problems among older people, and learn how best to provide the knowledge and support they need to deal effectively with these issues.

The Get Connected: Linking Older Adults with Medical, Alcohol and Mental Health Resources Toolkit was developed by a partnership among the Administration on Aging (AoA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in HHS, and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to help services providers for older adults identify, educate and screen the elderly for potential emotional and substance use problems.

“While most Americans continue to live active, engaged lives, too many still struggle with alcohol, drug and mental health problems,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. “This new toolkit offers useful information and resources to allow social service providers to help older adults overcome these problems and live happier and healthier.”

“At any stage of life, emotional problems, alcohol and drugs can pose a threat to health, happiness and longevity,” said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie. “The good news is that when an emotional or substance use issue is identified, it often can be resolved successfully. The Get Connected toolkit addresses the needs of this population by promoting new linkages that will help older adults gain access to needed substance abuse and mental health services.”

Older Americans make up fewer than 13 percent of the population, but receive between 25 and 30 percent of all prescriptions and account for more than half of the hospitalizations resulting from drug reactions. Seventeen percent of older adults experience problems with abuse of alcohol or misuse of prescription drugs, and 20% of the mental health problems experienced by those over 55 are not part of the normal aging process.

Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell said: “Too many of our elders struggle to cope with difficult life situations or mental health and substance abuse concerns that negatively affect their ability to participate fully in life. This exciting collaboration between SAMHSA, AoA and NCOA makes important information and resources available that can enhance the well-being of all older Americans.”

“Many of our members, along with organizations in the aging network, will find this toolkit invaluable, said James Firman, President and CEO of NCOA. “It will undoubtedly help millions of older adults, as well as engage aging services providers to partner with those in the substance abuse and mental health community.”

The entire kit can be ordered by calling SAMHSA’s Clearinghouse at (800) 729-6686. Components of the kit include: fact sheets, a video, consumer brochures, training guides and curricula and a services resource guide.