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Increase Pool of Mental Health Providers in Nursing Homes, AARP Says

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En español Older adults in nursing homes often suffer disproportionately higher rates of mental health illnesses and cognitive disorders – including anxiety, depression and dementia. But nursing home staff often aren’t trained to tend to the behavioral and mental health needs of all residents.

AARP is backing federal legislation that would close that gap by allowing clinical social workers to provide a wider range of services in nursing facilities and bill for them under Medicare Part B.

Under the bipartisan Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023, introduced in the U.S. House and Senate earlier this year, clinical social workers (CSWs) would be able to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, provide psychosocial care and perform behavioral health assessments for residents receiving Medicare.

“This will provide better coordination of care and increase the pool of providers who are able to provide” these services, wrote Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president of government affairs, in a Dec. 11 letter to the bill’s sponsors.

AARP has long advocated for better conditions in nursing homes, including efforts to create minimum staffing rules, prevent the overuse of psychotropic drugs and raise awareness about the harmful effects of involuntary transfers.

Read our letters to the House and Senate, and keep up with our nursing home coverage.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP’s Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. Her work has also appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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