Grant will expand partnerships at CU Aging Center

By Staff

The CU Aging Center has provided mental health care to Pikes Peak region seniors for 12 years, through low-fee, sliding-scale services that are invaluable to aging populations often challenged by mobility and finances.

Now, thanks to a $731,872 grant renewal from the Colorado Health Foundation, the CU Aging Center will expand and strengthen successful partnerships with Peak Vista and other Pikes Peak region senior providers. During the three-year term that began July 1, the foundation's annual support of the community center – administered by the University of Colorado Colorado Springs – will increase by more than 55 percent.

CU Aging Center services include client and caregiver counseling, psychological and cognitive screenings, and neuropsychological assessments that augment an integrated approach to senior health. In 2005, the center partnered with Peak Vista Community Health Centers to launch the first local integrated care program focused exclusively on seniors.

"Renewal of this Colorado Health Foundation grant is a strong endorsement of our pioneering work in integrated services for seniors, and will help enrich our community partnerships and expand services," said Michael Kenny, director of the CU Aging Center.

CU Aging Center integrated care programs supported by the grant will place more UCCS graduate student clinicians in settings that serve highly vulnerable or low-income seniors, including:

Peak Vista Community Health Centers, where Aging Center clinicians conduct depression, anxiety and cognitive-impairment screenings as part of regular senior medical visits, and provide consultations, co-visits with providers, counseling, and referrals for follow-up.

  • Rocky Mountain Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which helps seniors achieve their highest levels of independence through a multidisciplinary team approach to health care. CU Aging Center clinicians contribute intake assessments, screening, and individual and group counseling services to the PACE team.
  • Sunny Vista Living Center, where long-term care residents gain access to individual and group mental health services at no cost, supporting their adjustment to life changes and improving their quality of life.
  • Silver Key Senior Services, to supplement Silver Key's nutrition, transport, and social services with in-home mental care for the community's most frail, homebound elderly.

In addition, the Colorado Health Foundation grant will enhance integrated care for overburdened caregivers by increasing communication between Aging Center clinicians and the caregiver's other health providers, and by supporting the development of coordinated care plans. The grant also will help the Aging Center develop and implement new training modules to optimize senior-care delivery and coordination for Peak Vista and PACE site staff.

"The Aging Center has demonstrated an enduring commitment to improving the health of low-income seniors in El Paso County," said Tanya Weinberg, CU Foundation program officer. "During the time that the foundation has funded these programs, the Aging Center has steadily increased the number of seniors served as well as the number of agencies with whom they partner. By embedding behavioral health services within community-based agencies, these programs strongly align with the foundation's funding strategy to improve health-care delivery by promoting coordinated systems of care across the health-care system."

The CU Aging Center is an extension of UCCS's proficiency in senior mental health care education. It is the main clinical training ground for UCCS's Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, which has a strong curricular emphasis on geropsychology. The UCCS program is accredited by the American Psychological Association, which recently recognized the geropsychology specialty based on growing recognition that senior mental health care requires distinct approaches not fully addressed in conventional training.

Meanwhile, the need for mental health care for seniors and caregivers grows at an unprecedented rate. Colorado is at the leading edge of this nationwide demographic trend, with a senior population expected to triple between 2000 and 2030. The CU Aging Center, which last year provided 9,000 hours of services for 2,700 seniors and caregivers, addresses this need.

"Peak Vista serves as health-care home for many seniors, and this collaboration has been a beneficial effort on behalf of the senior community," said Pam McManus, president and CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers. "With the addition of this funding, it will continue to be so."

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