Maine's Elders Strategic Planning Forum

The Maine's Elders Forum was one of four strategic planning forums hosted by the Maine Behavioral Health Workforce Development Collaborative throughout the year to address service gaps and needs within various segments of the population throughout Maine.

The objectives of this forum were to build awareness of the size and nature of the problem of substance abuse and misuse among elders in Maine; to determine what can be done to identify at-risk elders and provide access to appropriate services; and to prioritize training needs for the workforce.

The expert panel represented:

  • Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging
  • Legal Services for the Elderly
  • Geriatric Fellowship at Maine - Dartmouth Family Medicine
  • Vermont Dept. of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, in partnership with the Vermont Dept. of Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, via GoToMeeting

It is widely thought that substance use and misuse in older adults is under-reported because of shame and stigma associated with dependence. In Maine, 18,000 people turn 65 each year, with many factors affecting their mental health; social life; physical well-being; and substance use and abuse. It is reported that Maine has the third highest incidence of depression among seniors in the United States, and the highest rate of long-term, extended release opiate prescriptions. There are several issues unique to seniors that make diagnosing and treating substance disorders extremely challenging.
The roundtable discussions outlined the following considerations for this population:

Identify/Refer to Treatment

There are many existing programs that could serve as natural interventions such as the primary care providers, health home staff, in-home aides, meals on wheels, VNA, the local pharmacist, family, EMT, case managers and social clubs. These providers need to be aware of the potential issues, which could be accomplished in the media with PSAs, public health messaging campaigns and promotion of drug take-back opportunities.

Treatment Needs/Gaps

It is thought that trained senior recovery coaches or groups of peers would be an effective approach to supporting elders in need. Priorities are senior sober housing; access to transportation; prevention education; senior centers; Area Agencies on Aging; and adequate and readily available information about resources. Treatment needs to be culturally sensitive, specialized toward the unique needs of elders, and available in a place where the client is comfortable, which may not be in an agency. Further education about aging is needed by the next generation of service providers, and continuing education training on all aspects of aging for professionals, both generalized and issue specific.

Existing/Building Capacity

Groups can be varied, such as a telephone recovery network, mixed groups, age-specific groups and senior centers. Develop a training model and disseminate to health care providers, HH, EMT, medical community, prevention avenues, program administrators, adult protective services, GOULD and EIM. Resources exist in some other states, community coalitions, tribal familial systems, higher education, health care systems, recovery centers and state departments.

For more information, see also: Recap by AdCare Maine's Nancee Campbell, featured on the MBHWDC blog

To learn more about the other three strategic planning forums, please click below: