TESTIMONY PRESENTED BY SPOP TO THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, 4/18/2012
Good afternoon. I am
Robert Tobing, Director of Program Operations at Service Program for Older
People, Inc., or SPOP. SPOP is a community-based
mental health agency that serves about 1,000 older adults each year. We were founded 40 years ago and were the
first agency in Manhattan to focus on the comprehensive mental health needs of
I am pleased
to speak today about new ways that SPOP is working to meet the mental health
service needs of New Yorkers.
SPOP serves a population that is
often difficult to reach and to treat.Mentally
frail adults are often physically challenged, isolated, and unable to travel to
appointments.Many of our clients do not
speak English or are reluctant to seek mental health treatment for cultural
reasons.I will speak about some of the
ways that SPOP has broken down barriers to treatment for some of the most
vulnerable members of our community, and how that treatment has helped to keep
adults healthy, independent and active in the community, often averting costly
The geriatric population in New York
City is expanding overall, and two of the fastest-growing segments of the
population are those who are physically frail and those who are among racial or
ethnic minority groups.
When you consider
that one in four older adults in the general population experiences mental
illness or behavioral disorders, you can see that here in New York we are
looking at a disproportionately large population of older adults in need of
mental health treatment who are either physically frail or minority or both.
The traditional delivery of services is
built on the assumption that older adults will come into an office to obtain
services. Unfortunately, this model does
not work for those who are too frail to leave their homes.
SPOP was a pioneer
in offering mental health treatment to homebound older adults.Today over half of our clinic clients receive
treatment in the home.Our homebound
clients are generally among the most isolated, impoverished and fragile adults
that we serve, and the treatment we provide is often the first step toward
re-engaging them with family and society – and the most important step in keeping them
out of the hospital.
We have also pioneered an approach to
mental health treatment that is culturally sensitive and offered in the native
language of clients, primarily Spanish.According
to DFTA, Manhattan, which is SPOP’s catchment area, has the largest elderly Hispanic
population in the City.These older
adults are particularly susceptible to social isolation – especially those who
are unfamiliar with English – and they have limited access to mental health
services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate.For those who are homebound, behavioral and
physical health treatment compliance is especially challenging.
To meet this need, SPOP has reached
out to Spanish-speaking adults over age 55, including those who are
homebound.We have expanded our staff of
bilingual social workers and psychiatrists, and we routinely venture into
ethnic and linguistic enclaves in order to engage with non-English speaking
clients. Today 19% of SPOP’s homebound
clientele is Spanish-speaking.
The cost of not treating mental
illness in the elderly is high. Older adults with mental illness are less able
to care for themselves or seek care, and untreated mental illness can directly
contribute to the development of physical illness.
continued growth of the elderly population will expand the need for mental
health services. We urgently request that the New York City Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene continue to support mental health care for the
elderly, particularly those who are homebound and those for whom English is not
the native language.
for your time and for providing SPOP with this opportunity to submit testimony.
SPOP was founded 40 years ago to meet the comprehensive mental
health needs of older New Yorkers living in the community.We
were one of the first agencies in the U.S. to focus exclusively on geriatric mental health care and we remain a national
leader in the field.
SPOP offers a range of services, including mental health
assessment and counseling, bereavement support, social adult day center for
adults with memory impairment, continuing day treatment for those with serious and persistent
mental illness, substance abuse counseling, peer advocacy at senior centers,
and education and training.SPOP
provides the counseling, support and practical guidance that help to keep older
adults healthy and independent.
SPOP pioneered the delivery of mental health care in the home for those who are unable to travel to appointments and is now the leading provider of long-term geriatric homebound mental health care in Manhattan. Through this program we are able to reach some of the most fragile and isolated members of the community.
SPOP has demonstrated that the provision of geriatric mental
health care is a prudent investment of resources.Treatment
is often the first step toward re-engaging clients with family and society –
and the single most important factor in averting hospitalization.
SPOP is dedicated to
meeting the mental health needs of older adults in our community. I thank you for your support.
SPOP Service Program for Older People, Inc 302 West 91st Street, New York, NY 10024 T: 212.787.7120 F: 212 580.0533