International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

A Practicum Partnership Approach to Addressing Barriers to Mental Health among Racially Diverse Older Adults
Jodi K. Hall, Karen Bullock

Latino and African American older adults with mental health problems are at greater risk for under-diagnosis, misdiagnosis and under-treatment than other groups. Mental illness in this population is often aggravated by social isolation, poverty, low education and other health problems. Preparing social workers to become culturally competent in working with older adults is one way to address barriers to care for underrepresented populations. Education and training that incorporate knowledge and skills about values, attitudes and behaviors toward helpseeking among diverse populations are essential. The Hartford Practicum Partnership Aging Education (HPPAE) took an interdisciplinary (MD, RN, LCSW) team approach to providing integrated health care for residents in seven public senior housing communities using a community-university partnership model. Of the 735 older adults were screened for this study, 278 completed 6-month follow up interviews. Forty-five percent of these older adults were African American, 45% were Latino, and 10% Caucasian and other. Thirty-five percent were at risk for depression; 31% for memory loss and 31% reported a history of mental health symptoms. Practitioner trained using this integrated health outreach model reported feeling more prepared in certain practice areas and also identified areas of insufficient knowledge to enable them to work effectively with diverse older adults. This research concludes that community outreach is an effective approach to increase access to health screening, assessment and referral while preparing health care practitioners to provide culturally competent care for community-dwelling older adults.

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