April 24, 2020
Carriage Towne News
EXETER/PORTSMOUTH — The NH state older adult REAP Program (Referral, Education, Assistance, and Prevention) and New Hampshire Community Mental Health Centers (NHCBHA) are working to address the underserved and extremely vulnerable older adult population during this time. While many people have transitioned to online or telephone sessions for their mental health and other supports, a large portion of older adults do not have equal access to assistance. Many older adults who do not live in a form of assisted living have been left alone during this time of crisis.
The REAP program is managed out of Seacoast Mental Health Center, one of the ten NH community mental health centers that comprise NHCBHA. SMHC administers the program statewide and contracts with the other nine New Hampshire community mental health centers to carry out this service in their regions. REAP provides free short-term preventative home and community-based counseling and education services to people over the age of 60, focused on information and resources on coping with life changes and emotional well-being including concerns around mental health and substance abuse. It also provides support to professional and care partners of older adults in addition to education and community resource information
COVID-19 has isolated many older adults from the world outside their home. They are being left behind as we transition to an online social world. In addition, many of the supports around transportation, delivery of food, necessary medications or other supplies have become limited or stopped completely. Since older adults are at high risk of complications from COVID-19, options to venture out themselves for such have become severely limited. Many care partners also fear exposing their loved ones and are unsure if they should continue visitation.
Director of REAP and Staff Therapist at SMHC, Anne Marie Olsen-Hayward says, “It’s not uncommon to hear older adult clients talk about feeling invisible and unseen. Our current state of social distancing only enhances this sense of isolation which can have a significant detrimental impact on the mental and physical well-being of older adults and their care partners. For some older adults, our phone call is the only check in they get. I cannot stress enough the positive impact that knowing someone will be checking in consistently has on a person’s overall well-being. That while we are separate, you are not alone.”
REAP is also coordinating with Service Link, the aging and disability resource center in NH that links people of all ages, income levels and abilities to information and support services in their community. Both organizations encourage older adults or care partners to call the REAP number at 1-603-957-5913, Service Link, or your local mental health center.