There’s a one-of-a-kind mental health outreach program for older adults that’s only offered here in New Hampshire.
It’s called REAP, which stands for Referral, Education, Assistance and Prevention. It’s a statewide, community-based short-term counseling program for adults 60 and older, their caregivers, and professionals who work with and on behalf of older adults.
It’s in its 25th year and is a program that other states have looked at in hopes of replicating, said REAP Director Jennifer Kinsey. But it’s a program not easily emulated, she said.
“It’s a cake that has been baking for a long, long time,” she said. “There’s a lot of work and a lot of barriers to starting a program like this.”
The program was started in 1992 by the state’s Housing Finance Authority with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address issues of alcohol and medication mismanagement in subsidized senior housing. In 2002, the program expanded to include people 60 or older living at home. In 2007, REAP added services for caregivers.
Today, there are REAP offices with counselors located in the state’s 10 mental health clinics. It’s funded by both the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Housing & Financing Authority.
The program offers confidential counseling on a short-term basis, helping their clients and their caregivers with up to five home visits, Kinsey said. It could help with dealing with loss, the stress of being a caregiver, recognizing alcohol or drug abuse, or help identifying and recognizing mental health issues.
REAP also offers educational programs at various places throughout the state. Some of the topics they have addressed include hoarding, dealing with holiday stress, the grief process, as well as the dangers of gossiping and bullying.
“For older adults, gossiping can create an ugly community,” Kinsey said. “It feels a little like middle school, but can create life-long relationship issues.”
With the state’s rapidly aging population, Kinsey said there are more families dealing with loved ones with cognitive issues and the stresses of caregiving.
“The most powerful thing I see in helping them is the validation that it’s incredibly hard and there is a lot of work,” she said. “They need support.”
The opioid crisis is also affecting older adults in many ways, Kinsey said. Some are using, while others are seeing their prescriptions stolen by loved ones. There are also an increasing number of grandparents caring for their grandchildren because the disease of addiction has killed their children.
“The state knows it has issues, but there are no easy answers,” Kinsey said.
For REAP services in your area, call ServiceLink at (866) 634-9412.
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Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday News report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire’s aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at email@example.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging