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Looking Ahead: Pioneering Undergraduate Education in Geriatric Mental Health Care

September 1, 2012 — The Behavioral Health Counseling department has a roster of accomplished faculty members, a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum, offerings for nontraditional students, and a creative program for engaging prospective students. However, even with so much to offer, the department never ceases to innovate and pursue new ways to grow. One of these growth opportunities will occur during the 2012-2013 academic year, when the department offers its first special topics course on the subject of geriatric behavioral health care.

During the next two decades, the population of adults over age 65 is expected to nearly double in size. With the health status of roughly 1 in 5 older adults compromised by a mental health or substance use disorder, the need for behavioral health care professionals with knowledge in the area of geriatric care will increase significantly. “There is an alarming lack of basic competence and core knowledge in key areas pertaining to the treatment challenges posed by this growing population,” BHC Department Chair Dr. Ronald Comer said. His remarks are reinforced by a July 10, 2012 Institute of Medicine report entitled, “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?”

Students who enroll in the department’s new course, “Geriatric Behavioral Health Care,” will learn about the latest research on the biopsychosocial aging process, later-life pathologies, essential principles of optimal care, and best practices for assessing and treating major psychiatric and substance use disorders in this population. The new course will be offered as an elective in Spring 2013.

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