Senator Casey Advocates for Improved Substance Use Disorder Treatments for Older Adults

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WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), in his role as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, has announced a legislative and advocacy effort geared towards enhancing the treatment and prevention of substance use disorders (SUDs) among older Americans. With the introduction of the Preventing and Treating Substance Use Disorders Among Older Adults Act, Casey aims to bolster the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) capacity to address this growing issue. A letter to SAMHSA accompanied the bill, urging the agency to refine its data collection practices concerning the prevalence of SUDs in older populations.

Casey’s initiatives arise amid increasing concern over the rise in SUDs among individuals over the age of 65. Statistics from 2022 show almost four million older Americans battling an SUD, a significant jump from 1.7 million in 2000 to an estimated need of 5.7 million by 2020. Despite these rising numbers, older adults frequently miss out on crucial screenings and preventative measures due to existing gaps in healthcare strategies tailored to their demographic.

“Despite being more susceptible to developing substance use disorders, older Americans are often overlooked for typical screenings and prevention efforts,” Casey stated, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue at a national level. His proposed legislation seeks not only to highlight the increasing cases of SUDs among older adults but also to enhance the treatment and preventive solutions available to them.

The Preventing and Treating Substance Use Disorders Among Older Adults Act proposes to establish a grant program within SAMHSA. This program intends to elevate the understanding, treatment, and prevention of SUDs among older adults by awarding grants to entities in critical areas. These grants would focus on enhancing comprehensive care coordination, integrating care models, improving data collection efforts, and fostering collaborations that include older adults and their families.

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Furthermore, Casey’s letter to SAMHSA calls for improved data collection in three specific areas: the extent of SUDs among older adults, their access to integrated physical and mental healthcare, and their ability to obtain wraparound and other social supports tailored to their unique needs. This enhanced data collection is vital for developing more effective treatment and prevention strategies for older adults with SUDs.

These latest efforts by Chairman Casey follow an Aging Committee hearing in December titled “Understanding a Growing Crisis: Substance Use Trends Among Older Adults.” The hearing brought to light the challenges, coverage gaps, treatment barriers, and research limitations facing older adults struggling with SUDs. Casey’s bill and his outreach to SAMHSA directly respond to the issues identified during this hearing.

With the number of older adults needing treatment for SUDs projected to increase, Casey’s initiatives represent a critical step toward ensuring that this vulnerable segment of the population receives the attention and care it desperately needs. By focusing on improving data collection and expanding treatment and prevention services, these actions could significantly impact the health and well-being of millions of older Americans dealing with substance use disorders.

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