by Danielle Drown for Clara Martin Center

Karen always had an active life full of family, friends, work and community involvement. Now the kids have flown the coop, her years of employment are over and medical conditions limit her ability to get out and about. She found that her feelings of depression and anxiety which used to be manageable became more difficult to bear and her drinking started to get out of control.

Many older adults, like Karen, live alone, on fixed incomes and without social connectedness or accessibility of family or friends. Additionally, they often face a lifetime culmination of losses, barriers to mobility, Medicare regulations, social isolation, increased use and misuse of prescribed medications, and multiple effects of lifelong substance abuse. These factors contribute to the overall mental health and substance abuse disorders of older adults who live in rural, secluded areas.

Projections suggest that the number of Vermonters who are 65 and older will reach 25% of the state’s overall population by the year 2030.

Research from SAMHSA shows a growing need nationally among the 60 and over population for substance abuse services. Orange County and Northern Windsor county of Vermont are no exception.

Clara Martin Center is responding to these growing needs by piloting Older Adults Substance Abuse Services for Orange and Northern Windsor Counties of Vermont, modeled on a successful program at Rutland Mental Health

Demetra Hazatones, the Regional Director of Adult Services at the Clara Martin Center, says education is the key to reaching older adult Vermonters who suffer with substance issues. “Education is a crucial factor in the recovery process as it provides a foundation of awareness, insight, understanding and compassion. These are necessary components at the onset of treatment and throughout the recovery process”.

Risks associated with older adult addiction and substance use disorders are due, in part, to an increased risk of overdose and misuse of medications just from lack of education. This is seen in the number of Emergency Room visits due to misuse or overuse of medications.

Clara Martin Center’s Older Adults SA program is designed to truly meet an older adult where they are by providing therapy and/or case management services to those adults who are 60 and over in their own homes, as well as in office settings.

Clara Martin Center served over 200 individuals age 60 and above last year.  This number will grow as the new program expands access for older adults in the Bradford region.

Gretchen Pembroke, the Director of Adult Services at the Clara Martin Center, says in home supports can be critical to meeting the needs of older adults.

“By providing in-home supports, the program focuses on outreach into the community which allows us to reach individuals that may not otherwise be able to make it in for the help they need,” said Pembroke. “The goal is to increase access to support and decreases social isolation.”

Even if she had greater mobility, Karen wouldn’t be comfortable going to a mental health center, but she welcomed visits from the Clara Martin case manager and therapist.  The education and support she received in her own home, helped her find better coping options and meaningful opportunities to lead the active life that she prefers.

It is time for a new era of treatment options for older Vermonters and Clara Martin Center feels that there is no occasion like the present.