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Dr. Buckwalter Provides Nursing Presence in New IOM Report

 Kathleen Buckwalter

Since 1983, Professor Emeritus Kathleen “Kitty” Buckwalter, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been working tirelessly to advance mental health care for older adults.

Two years ago, she was appointed to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on the Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations. During this time, Dr. Buckwalter compiled information for the newly released IOM report—“The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?”—and provided a voice for the nursing profession within the context this important documentation. 

“Now the dissemination phase begins with authors presenting at major Geriatric and Mental Health conferences nationally throughout the year. Hopefully there will be some impact,” said Buckwalter.

The following excerpt is from the report:

“At least 5.6 million to 8 million – nearly one in five – older adults in America have one or more mental health and substance use conditions, which present unique challenges for their care. With the number of adults age 65 and older projected to soar from 40.3 million in 2010 to 72.1 million by 2030, the aging of America holds profound consequences for the nation.

“For decades, policymakers have been warned that the nation’s health care workforce is ill-equipped to care for a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse population. In the specific disciplines of mental health and substance use, there have been similar warnings about serious workforce shortages, insufficient workforce diversity, and lack of basic competence and core knowledge in key areas.

“Following its 2008 report highlighting the urgency of expanding and strengthening the geriatric health care workforce, the IOM was asked by the Department of Health and Human Services to undertake a complementary study on the geriatric mental health and substance use workforce. An expert committee assessed the needs of this population and the workforce that serves it. The breadth and magnitude of inadequate workforce training and personnel shortages have grown to such proportions, says the committee, that no single approach, nor a few isolated changes in disparate federal agencies or programs, can adequately address the issue. Overcoming these challenges will require focused and coordinated action by all.”

More information about the IOM report, including a press release, a report brief, and recommendations, can be found at

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Professor Emeritus Kathleen Buckwalter, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the former Director of the John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, and Associate Director of the National Health Law and Policy Center at the UI College of Law. A prolific researcher of issues affecting the elderly, Dr. Buckwalter's work has focused on improving mental health services and providing community-based care for chronically ill older persons. Her specific clinical and research interests are in the area of geriatric mental health.

Posted On: 
Jul 25th, 2012