On October 30, 2012, the Center for Senior Behavioral Health will open at Proctor Hospital. This comprehensive 18-bed inpatient unit is the first of its kind in Peoria. I am excited to announce that Proctor is taking a leadership role in an area of geriatric psychiatry, where the need is so pervasive.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 40.3 million Americans age 65 and older in 2010. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to 72.1 million. Locally, the same report shows a high concentration of seniors in Peoria County—13.5 percent of the population—compared to 12.5 percent in the rest of the state. By 2020, the senior population in the Tri-County Area will increase by 31 percent. With nearly one out of five individuals 55 and older experiencing behavioral health problems that are not part of normal aging, according to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the need is great, and it is pressing.

Since 1994, the Counseling Center at Proctor Hospital has provided comprehensive outpatient counseling services to older adults. That, along with 33 years of experience in inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, uniquely positions us to answer this growing need and provide a more intensive level of mental healthcare for older adults.

“For the past 37 years I’ve practiced inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. I am aware of the unique problems of treating psychiatric patients with severe comorbid medical problems, and the Center definitely fills a void,” says its medical director, Dr. Bradford Colen. “Older adults have specific needs that are best addressed in programming focused on their specific stage of life. Physical illnesses, medications, and the psychological and social stresses of aging can often complicate diagnosis and treatment. Most importantly, addressing comorbid mental and medical health problems helps to decrease emotional suffering, improve physical health, lessen disability, and provide a better quality of life for patients. You’ll also see a reduction in healthcare expenditures because you’ll reduce primary care visits and likely reduce the need for additional procedures and medications.”

In a July 7, 2012 USA Today article, Lauran Neergaard speaks to Dr. Colen’s point. “Older adults with untreated depression are less likely to have their diabetes, high blood pressure and other physical conditions under control—and consequently wind up costing a lot more to treat.”

The Center for Senior Behavioral Health will provide a comprehensive continuum of care for patients experiencing a number of acute or chronic psychiatric conditions, such as severe depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, psychosis or bipolar disorder. Patient care plans will include medical management, nursing care, psychological testing, social work, needed therapies and nutritional support. The center will also provide a high degree of observation, care and safety.

Among the 40 inpatient beds currently dedicated to adults for mental healthcare, very few are designated specifically for the gero-psych patient. A recent headline in the Journal Star reader forum stated simply: More mental health help needed. I am excited that we can now provide more mental healthcare for the geriatric population—and continue to serve our mission to central Illinois, providing unmatched healthcare experiences… every day. iBi

For more information about the Center for Behavioral Health at Proctor Hospital, call (309) 691-1022.