WISE & Healthy Aging is located at the Ken Edwards Center in downtown Santa Monica. (File photo)

Editor,

WISE & Healthy Aging has been serving Los Angeles communities for more than 45 years with a range of diverse programming and services for older adults and caregivers for the elderly.  One of our programs is Mental Health Services.  While we are not renewing our contract with the County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health (DMH) after July 1, we are committed to and plan to build on the strong reputation of our Senior Peer Counseling Program, a key service that has been supporting the well-being of local senior residents for decades.

Nationally-recognized, our Senior Peer Counseling Program is staffed by seasoned clinicians (a licensed clinical social worker and clinical psychologist) who train and supervise older-adult volunteers to provide peer-to-peer counseling.  Our program offers one-on-one counseling as well as support groups for bereavement, stress management, life transitions, including groups for caregivers, men and women, as well as specialized workshops for those with hoarding concerns (our 15-week “From Collecting to Decluttering” workshop).  Most often, there is no fee for people to access our peer counseling services. Annually, more than 150 people benefit from this program.  While DMH does not fund peer counseling, we remain committed to supporting this valuable program, and see it as one of our core services in support of our mission to advance the dignity and quality of life of older adults.

We are saddened to no longer be able to continue providing psychotherapy services after the completion of our DMH contract.  Given the limited funding for mental health services, we have utilized a clinical psychology training program model where student interns and post-doctoral fellows provide therapy to clients under the supervision of licensed professionals employed by WISE & Healthy Aging.  A student training model of service delivery is used because funding would not support the cost of licensed professionals providing direct therapy.

We have relied on DMH funding and Medicare reimbursement to cover the costs of providing psychotherapy services. And unfortunately, with changes in Medicare reimbursement and increased competition from universities, large medical centers and the VA to recruit qualified clinical interns, we can no longer provide the level and quality of service that our seniors deserve.

We are working closely with DMH to transition our clients to nearby service providers. Almost all have been successfully referred to other DMH-contracted facilities on Los Angeles’ Westside.  There are also private practice groups locally that are willing to accept clients with Medicare as payment in full, thus no out-of-pocket cost to the client/patient.  Our clinicians will continue to provide individual and group therapy sessions through the end of this month, and have confirmed appointments for clients with referral sources for continued sessions. Clients without cars have all been provided transportation options, including Access, a county service offering free rides to the other sites.

While we will no longer be providing therapy, WISE & Healthy Aging is proud to continue, as a nonprofit, social services agency, to provide counseling services to older adults through our Peer Counseling Program.

Grace Cheng Braun

President and CEO

WISE & Healthy Aging

Thomas S. Loo

Chairman, Board of Directors

WISE & Healthy Aging

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