Jan 30, 2023

In partnership with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the MA Councils on Aging launched a Behavioral Health Innovation grant program to support new strategies to deliver behavioral health supports to older adults in the community.

Grantees were asked to develop innovations to tackle barriers to behavioral health services including the cost of care, ageism, stigma, health conditions that limit mobility, and workforce capacity. Grantees were encouraged to build or strengthen pathways between the aging network and behavioral health care system, including the recently designated Community Behavioral Health Centers (CBHCs).

In addition to facilitating the effective delivery of services, EOEA and other stakeholders hope that grant outcomes will inform behavioral health and aging services policy and provide insights to potentially replicate and scale promising practices.

Chelmsford Council on Aging (CCOA)

With its group-based model, CCOA seeks to bypass barriers to care, such as long waiting lists, high costs, and the often confusing process of navigating services. In partnership with Vinfen, a Massachusetts-based behavioral health organization and new CBHC, CCOA is offering mental wellness workshops for older adults, addressing topics such as stigma, hoarding, and suicide prevention. To meet the needs of participants, groups are held at local senior centers to connect participants to other services.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES)

SCES is collaborating with Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) to introduce a care pathway designed to support multicultural clients with behavioral health conditions. SCES will designate current and hire additional Elder Mental Health Outreach Team (EMHOT) staff who speak Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish to better meet the language needs of the community. SCES and CHA will provide bi-directional warm referrals and screen for older adults who may benefit from additional services. Building on the agencies’ successful Hospital to Home partnership, they plan to focus on older adults being discharged from inpatient psychiatry. The clinician will work with the older adult following discharge to provide supports and services for successful transition back into the community.

“Older adults have more barriers to accessing care, especially in non-English speaking communities. Another layer is that helping professionals sometimes put their own goals on people. I hope this program will bridge some gaps by giving people space to find resources in their community and get comfortable talking to somebody without an agenda.”
Courtney Johnson, Clinical Social Worker, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

Dennis Council on Aging

The Dennis Council on Aging aims to address local behavioral health service shortages by training coaches to work with older adults in the community who are at-risk for depression. Coaches are being trained in PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives), an evidence-based model that teaches skills to promote resilience, self-sufficiency and increased activity. In addition to being part of the Crisis Intervention Team, the Dennis Center for Active Living, which refers older adults to coaches, works with town police and fire departments, as well as other agencies, to collaboratively offer resources to the participants and serve as referral sources.

Hull Council on Aging (HCOA)

HCOA is growing their staff by hiring a community health worker and mental health clinician, and increasing the services they can offer by partnering with local mental health professionals. HCOA will offer workshops on substance use, holistic wellness, and mental health education; and support groups for clutter reduction, grief/loss, and caregiving. HCOA also will offer short-term intervention through the Aspire Health Alliance Open Access Program.

Ludlow Council on Aging

The Ludlow Council on Aging will offer Time for YOU, a holistic health and wellness program. Time for YOU participants will learn self-care practices, such as boundary-setting, gratitude, finding passion, and gaining a sense of purpose to decrease the feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness and other negative feelings. The program also incorporates alternative healing methods, such as neurological reconditioning and Reiki. Additionally, the Ludlow Council on Aging will conduct outreach to at-risk older adults who have not visited the Senior Center since the pandemic began.

Randolph Elder Services

The Town of Randolph will collaborate with Boston University’s Network for Professional Education, Turner Free Library, and Aspire Health Alliance to train hoarding task force members. The task force will hold public education sessions and provide resource guides to older adults and caregivers on decluttering. It also plans to use the training and funds to provide assessment and decluttering support to older adults who are at risk of homelessness in Randolph due to a hoarding condition.

“This grant funding will help our local task force (which includes members from the police department, fire department, public health department, community programs, social work, and elder services) recognize, approach, and assist persons experiencing hoarding. This project will help us find wrap-around supports to help people stay in their homes.”
Elizabeth LaRosee, Director of Library, Recreation, and Community Programs

Elder Healthcare Disparities Coalition (EHCDC)

EHCDC plans to counteract isolation and health disparities with intergenerational relationships, technology access, and digital learning. EHCDC is partnering with the MA College of Pharmacy and Health Services and Timothy Smith Network to offer the Getting Healthy with Technology Program. Each participating older adult will be paired with another participant and two students for shared program discussion. Together, these intergenerational pairings will explore four training modules: introduction to devices; telehealth; internet safety; and mental wellness activities.

Northeast Independent Living Program

The Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP) is a leading provider of older adult peer support. NILP relies on referrals from local Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) and the MassHealth Frail Elder Waiver to train people to become Certified Older Adult Peer Specialists (COAPS) to deliver this service. Under this grant program, NILP will collaborate with the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) to support the behavioral health needs of disconnected communities, focusing on Cambodian and Latino populations in Lowell and Lawrence. NILP will conduct outreach in Lawrence and Lowell to recruit for two Spanish-speaking and two Khmer-speaking peer specialists. The teams will provide peer support, host events and discussions, and offer resources in Khmer and Spanish.

Southeast Center for Independent Living

The Southeast Center for Independent Living will launch the WISH (Wellness, Independence, Support, and Hope) program. WISH offers older adults with disabilities a non-clinical, curriculum-based approach to mental health support. WISH has four components. Wellness focuses on self-care, social connections, medication management, nutrition, physical activity, and safety. Independence highlights the resources and tools for older adults to make their own decisions. Support connects older adults to peer mentors, groups, workshops, social activities, and community resources. And Hope focuses on maintaining a positive outlook and enhancing quality of life.

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