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New mental health program helps seniors find purpose in life

The Richmond Senior Life Services program is already one of the fatest growing of the SLS programs. From left are staff members Justin McGee, Lacey Sullenger, Dr. Subbu Sarma, Jessica Michener, Joe Jacobson and Jennifer McCutcheon. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

The Richmond Senior Life Services program is already one of the fastest growing of the SLS programs. From left are staff members Justin McGee, Lacey Sullenger, Dr. Subbu Sarma, Jessica Michener, Joe Jacobson and Jennifer McCutcheon. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

Looking forward to an era of prosperity at the end of World War II, those who had postponed childbirth and marriage during the war got married in postwar America, thus beginning the largest baby boom in our nation’s history.

With that huge growth spurt in population, those children are now senior citizens and coping with a myriad of physical and mental health problems.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over the age of 60 will nearly double.

With the expansion of an aging population has come a need to address the burgeoning problem of mental health issues.

Senior Life Solutions, a program dedicated to addressing the emotional behavioral health of adults over the age of 65 in rural communities, is one of the rapidly growing networks designed to provide assistance to these adults.

The program, which has a clinic in Ray County Memorial Hospital, is designed to help those suffering from crying, hopelessness, loneliness, restlessness and sadness, as well as those coping with loss, decreased energy, difficulty sleeping and low self-confidence.

“We offer an intensive outpatient program that meets three times a week with 45 minute classes,” said Jennifer McCutcheon, the program director and licensed clinical social worker who heads up the program at RCMH.

McCutcheon said the program helps patients work with depression, anxiety, grief and loss of any kind, by assisting patients in developing coping skills and identifying the events that trigger an episode.

The WHO website states that approximately 15 percent of adults age 60 and older suffers from a mental disorder.

Approximately 25 percent of primary-care patients have one or more psychiatric disorders. They have found that integrated mental health care can reduce patients’  depression and cut costs, according to www.senioriop.com, the parent company to the local Senior Life Solutions program.

The program was created in 2003 by Psychiatric Medical Care to treat geriatric behavioral health patients in a hospital outpatient setting. The program is especially designed to meet the needs in an underserved area – rural regions – such as Ray County, and is Medicare-based.

The meetings at RCMH include a core group of up to 10 patients. The meetings are educational and no one is forced to talk about his or her problems.

“Most importantly,” said McCutcheon, “the patient gets feedback from their peers, and can get just as much by listening as sharing. There is no pressure.”

The complete story is in the Friday, July 15, 2016 Richmond News.

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