Plymouth State University hosted 125 social workers, mental health and substance abuse professionals, policy makers and local consumers for the New Hampshire Conference on Rural Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Aging in June. The daylong conference was an Independent Aging Agenda event recognized by the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, one of many similar conferences held around the country designed to look at contemporary challenges faced by an aging population.
Social Work professor Stephen Gorin, who has been appointed by Gov. John Lynch as a delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, said the conference helped to spotlight the issues of substance abuse and mental health among older adults. Gorin called the conference a great success.
“The participants worked hard to share their concerns and recommendations with the national planners of the White House Conference on Aging,” Gorin said. “As a delegate, I hope to have the opportunity to discuss these concerns at the national conference.”
Conference attendees examined many of the issues faced by older Americans, including social isolation, depression, financial instability, medication management, family issues, lack of housing and transportation, and other challenges. Speakers included PSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Virginia Barry; Judge Edwin Kelly, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Prevention, Intervention and Treatment; Joseph Harding on behalf of Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen; Gary Bailey, president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Stephen Bartels, medical director of the Bureau of Behavioral Health and co-director of the Older Americans Substance Abuse and Mental Health Technical Assistance Center. Robert Blancato, a member of the Policy and Executive Committees of the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, gave a lunchtime address focused on national issues and policies of the future.
The White House Conference on Aging convenes once every 10 years to examine issues related to aging and health. According to Blancato, the conference produces up to 50 resolutions they hope will become the basis for new policies during the next 10 years. State conference events like the one held at Plymouth serve as an opportunity for organizations and citizens to provide input on important issues to the White House Conference on Aging’s Policy Committee.
Afternoon sessions on a variety of topics, including health promotion, disease prevention, housing, institutional care, financing, home-based support services, transportation, mental health, substance abuse and co-occuring disorders, gave New Hampshire residents a chance to speak out on contemporary issues and offer comments, solutions and information to the White House Conference on Aging’s Policy Committee.
Sponsors of the conference, in addition to PSU’s Social Work Department, included the UNH Institute on Disability, the Bureau of Behavioral Health, the New Hampshire Chapter of the NASW, the Coalition of Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Aging, the Mental Health and Aging Consumer Advisory Committee, the NH Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Association, the NH Institute on Addictive Disorders and the Real Choice Consumers Advisory Committee. Gorin and Todd Ringelstein were co-chairs of the Conference Planning Committee. —Kristin Proulx Jarvis
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