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Depression Treatment Offered for Low-Income Seniors


Depression Treatment Offered for Low-Income Seniors 

Nationwide, 20% of seniors experience depression. Remarkably, 80% of those seniors can be treated successfully, if they seek and receive effective care and support.

“That’s important health news for Sonoma County, which has one of the highest senior populations in California,” says Nurit Licht, MD, Chief Medical Office of Petaluma Health Center. “Depression is often under-recognized and under-treated in older adult patients,” she says. “It negatively impacts physical health and can cause medical disorders to worsen. The Sonoma Care Collaborative Project will help us identify and treat patients who need help.” 

During the two-year project, the Sonoma Care Collaborative Project (SCCP) will provide care to at least 100 low-income seniors aged 65 and over who will work with a specially trained team for 10-12 weeks. The team includes their PHC provider who screens them for depression, a PHC, licensed clinical social worker, a psychiatric consultant and the Care Coordinator, an Adult and Aging Division geriatric social worker who visits patients at home. 

“By facilitating better collaboration between health care providers and Human Services professionals, the Sonoma Care Collaborative Project will help seniors who are depressed and increase their access to services,” says Adult and Aging Division Director Diane Kaljian. “Many seniors, particularly those who are high risk for depression, often don’t know where or how to get proper treatment. Through this innovative program, their own primary care provider will be able to enroll them into treatment and part of their care will take place in their own homes.” 

Low-income seniors, who often face financial stress, social isolation and other health and medical conditions, are at greater risk for depression. They may not seek treatment because of the stigma attached to mental health concerns, the cost of treatment and the difficulty of accessing care. “The SCCP makes depression screening and treatment even more accessible to those in our County who need it most,” Kaljian adds.

The SCCP uses the highly successful Collaborative Care model developed at the University of Washington Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions Center (AIMS Center). Clinical trials show that Collaborative Care more than doubles the effectiveness of depression treatment for older adults in primary care settings. 

The collaboration between the Adult and Aging Division and Petaluma Health Center was one of seven depression-intervention projects funded by Archstone Foundation. Established in 1986, the Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation whose mission is to prepare society for the growing needs of an aging society. Under the leadership of President and CEO Joseph F. Prevratil, J.D., Archstone grants up to $5 million annually, primarily in Southern California.