Former chair of APA’s Committee on Aging (CONA), Erin Emery-Tiburcio, PhD, ABPP, associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and geriatric medicine at Rush University Medical Center and codirector of Rush Center for Excellence in Aging, testified before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging at a May 19 hearing entitled “Mental Health Care for Older Adults: Raising Awareness, Addressing Stigma, and Providing Support (PDF, 467KB).”
In her testimony, Emery-Tiburcio highlighted three key issues for the committee to consider when creating policy to address equity for older adults: access to care related to Medicare policies, the need for coordination of care for aging adults who experience complex health issues, and the critical need for expanding the behavioral health workforce trained to work with older adults. Additionally, she asked the committee to support a long-term extension of the current telehealth coverage flexibilities, as well as equal coverage and reimbursement for mental health services provided via telehealth. She also shared research about the health risks of social isolation and loneliness.
In addressing access to care, Emery-Tiburcio emphasized that allowing for market rate reimbursement for mental health and substance use services is critical to assuring adequate provider enrollment. She also explained that Medicare Advantage plans must be required to allow for coordinated care by not separating contracts for health systems that also have behavioral health systems.
In discussing the coordination of care, she emphasized the critical need for coordination across health care entities and community-based organizations. The Bridge Model of transitional care, initially developed by her Rush colleagues, leverages master’s-level social workers to provide a comprehensive intervention to support patients and those who care for them after a hospitalization or rehabilitation stay. Emery-Tiburcio highlighted this program as an example of a successful program that coordinates services across health and social care.
Emery-Tiburcio also emphasized the importance of increasing funding for training programs that will bolster the behavioral health workforce, such as the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program.
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