Casey pushes for federal action to help older adults struggling with substance abuse

20 May 2024- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, has recently unveiled a series of actions to prevent and treat substance use disorders (SUDs) among older adults. As part of the package, Casey introduced the Preventing and Treating Substance Use Disorders Among Older Adults Act, a bill that will help provide the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with the resources it needs to improve treatment and prevention services for older adults with SUDs. Casey also sent a letter to SAMHSA urging the agency to improve its collection of data about the prevalence of older adults with substance use disorders to facilitate better treatment and prevention.

“Despite being more susceptible to developing substance use disorders, older Americans are often overlooked for typical screenings and prevention efforts,” said Chairman Casey (D-PA). “Today, I’m taking action to ensure that the rise in substance use disorders among older adults is a subject of national attention, and to improve the availability and accessibility of potentially life-saving treatment options.”

The rates of substance use disorders among older adults over the age of 65 have increased in recent years, with nearly four million older adults reporting an SUD in 2022. The number of older adults needing SUD treatment has tripled from 1.7 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2020. Unfortunately, older adults are often overlooked when developing screening, prevention, and treatment strategies. These challenges are compounded by a lack of data available to promote understanding of how to best care for older adults with SUDs. 

Senator Casey’s new bill, the Preventing and Treating Substance Use Disorders Among Older Adults Act, will establish a grant program at SAMHSA to improve understanding as well as treatment and prevention services for older adults with SUDs. The program will award grants to eligible entities, particularly those located in areas of high need, to improve SUD treatment and prevention services for older adults, including those that seek to improve comprehensive care coordination and integrated care, data collection, and collaboration with older adults and their loved ones.

Read more about the Preventing and Treating Substance Use Disorders Among Older Adults Act here.