Joe D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., JD, LMFT, CSW, director of wellness and behavioral health clinician at the UofL Trager Institute
Joe D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., JD, LMFT, CSW, director of wellness and behavioral health clinician at the UofL Trager Institute

A new classification as a Behavioral Health Service Organization will allow the UofL Trager Institute, home of the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic, to help more Kentuckians receive mental health services.

Behavioral Health Service Organizations fall under a license category created by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The designation was established to increase the number of entities in Kentucky that provide behavioral health services to Medicaid recipients in community-based programs.

“This classification allows our team to provide behavioral health services to a broader spectrum of our community, as many vulnerable individuals rely on these programs to receive mental health care,” said Anna Faul, executive director of the UofL Trager Institute. 

Faul says the change means the institute can hire more providers and scale services to their already existing statewide network established through the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and Behavioral Health Workforce Enhancement Program (BHWEP).

The UofL Trager Institute grant-supported GWEP and BHWEP programs provide health care and behavioral care training, care coordination and health resources through a partnership network that includes all 15 Area Development Districts covering 120 counties in Kentucky.

The institute philosophy integrates behavioral health and primary care, as reflected in their FlourishCare Model – a care coordination approach to health and well-being that addresses six comprehensive determinants of a patient’s health. 

“Mental health is deeply connected to our overall health and well-being as we age,” said Joe D’Ambrosio, director of wellness at the UofL Trager Institute. “The greater emotional strain of loss, mobility restrictions and physical changes can cause older adults to be at greater risk of developing serious, chronic mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. In our practice, we are finding that both depression and anxiety are on an increase across all ages.”

Approximately 20% of adults in the United States age 18 and older are affected by depression and anxiety. For older adults, depression is one of the most prevalent but least recognized disorders.

D’Ambrosio says, “In addition to the emotional and psychological toll, untreated mental health issues can cause greater physical distress through increased inflammation and stress on the body. Untreated mental health issues can, therefore, lead to further negative physical decline, especially for those who may have multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or COPD.”

The importance of expanding accessible and affordable behavioral health services to all individuals, and especially older adults, is underscored by data showing 30-to-80% of all primary care visits are driven in part by behavioral health conditions. Evidence equally suggests that integrating a comprehensive behavioral health approach to primary care can improve emotional and mental well-being while increasing adherence to chronic disease treatment protocols.

The UofL Trager Institute provides a variety of behavioral health service options and modalities at its Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic, including individual and group therapy, couples and marriage counseling and specialized programs for addressing depression in older adults. All services are available virtually.

To learn more about the behavioral health and tele-health offerings, visit the website.