About the Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative 

In 2014, advocates for older adults and people with disabilities succeeded in lobbying the Oregon Legislature to fund the Behavioral Health Initiative for Older Adults and People with Physical Disabilities. This investment created 25 new positions throughout the state to place professionals who specialize in behavioral health for older adults and people with disabilities in local and regional community mental health programs. Since that time, these Behavioral Health Specialists have been building capacity in their communities to better meet the needs of this historically underserved population.

What is the goal of the Behavioral Health Initiative?

The goal of the Behavioral Health Initiative for Older Adults and People with Physical Disabilities (Behavioral Health Initiative) is to better meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities by improving timely access to care from qualified providers who work together to provide coordinated, quality and culturally responsive behavioral health and wellness services.

How is the Behavioral Health Initiative meeting this goal?

The Behavioral Health Initiative is housed in the Oregon Health Authority. Funding supports a Project Director and 24 Behavioral Health Specialists located in communities across Oregon. They are working with their community partners to:

  • Improve the population’s access to behavioral health providers, services and benefits;
  • Improve the knowledge and skills of people who provide services or care to the population; and
  • Improve the population’s knowledge about signs and symptoms of behavioral health problems and how to address them.

Learn more about the outcomes of the Behavioral Health Initiative by visiting the Reports page.

What do Behavioral Health Specialists do?

Behavioral Health Specialists have three key job functions that contribute to the goal of the Initiative: 

Below are factsheets about some of the projects Behavioral Health Specialists have brought to their communities.

Why focus on this population?

Today 15.4 percent of Oregonians are 65 years or older. By 2030, that figure will increase to 20 percent. The 75-and-older age group will grow even faster. This trend has significant implications for the health care system, including behavioral health. At least one in five Americans over 65 have one or more mental health or substance use conditions.

For example:

Outline of the state of Oregon with text: In Oregon, men are about three times more likely to die by suicide than women. The highest suicide rate in the state occurred among men age 85 and older: 71.9 per 100,000.
Picture of a pill bottle with the text: Oregon has the highest rate of those 65+ hospitalized for opioid related issues such as overdose, abuse and dependence.

Picture of a brain with the text: An estimated 76,000 Oregonians have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

See more data about this population in the infographics on the Resources page.

Find a Behavioral Health Specialist

Behavioral Health Specialists work with key stakeholders in their communities to reduce gaps in services for older adults and people with disabilities who have behavioral health needs.