Supporting the Behavioral Health of Older Adults: Evaluating a Multi-Site, Multi-Actor, Multi-Agency Initiative

Allyson Stodola
Jason Z Kyler-Yano
Serena Hasworth
Jaclyn Winfree
Walter D Dawson
Peer-Reviewed Article
April 2022


Provides an overview and evaluation of the Behavioral Health Initiative for Older Adults and People with Physical Disabilities in Oregon.


Even though there are high rates of mental illness and substance use disorders among older adults and people with physical disabilities, there are few state-level programs to address these behavioral health issues. In 2015, Oregon established an initiative to improve coordination of behavioral health services for these populations. This article describes strategies the state implemented through the Behavioral Health Initiative for Older Adults and People with Physical Disabilities and shares outcomes.


The evaluation indicated the initiative delivered numerous complex care consultations, workforce trainings, and other educational opportunities to support the behavioral health of older adults and people living with disabilities in Oregon. Interviewed stakeholders believe that behavioral health services for this population have improved, but it is difficult to confirm that these changes were from the initiative. There are also still many barriers to improving care coordination and behavioral health outcomes for this population, such as a lack of public funding for behavioral health, shortages of affordable housing, and siloed agencies.

The authors outlined recommendations for Oregon policymakers to advance this work, including enhancing the role of the initiative and specialists, augmenting specialist job functions, conducting marketing and outreach, and addressing still-existing gaps in services.


Oregon’s experience may offer valuable lessons for other states interested in developing behavioral health programs for older adults and people with disabilities.

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