The Silver Boom: A Growing Shortage of Mental Health Specialists

Mar 12, 2013

Dr. Robert Kohn, geriatric psychiatrist
Credit Brown University

Will we have enough geriatric specialists to take care of Rhode Island's aging population?

In less than 20 years, a quarter of the state’s population will be older than 60. In a series we call “The Silver Boom: Aging in Rhode Island,” we’re looking this week at how the state will take care of this expanding older population, and how the state benefits from these older residents.

One issue you might be familiar with-- if you care for an aging parent or spouse--is the growing shortage of mental health professionals who focus on the elderly. The Institutes of Medicine published a report recently calling for a concerted effort to address the crisis. To learn more, Rhode Island Public Radio’s health care reporter Kristin Gourlay sat down with Miriam hospital geriatric psychiatrist Robert Kohn, who also runs Brown University’s geriatric psychiatry training program.

Kohn  says part of the problem is that we’re not training enough new practitioners. And that's because it's tough to recruit people into a specialty that often doesn't pay as well as others. 

Kohn believes part of the solution lies in providing specialized training for nurses and physician assistants, who are often already on the front lines of geriatric mental health care.

He also offers some tips for families or spouses struggling to find the right care for an elder loved one.


Explore more stories in our series, The Silver Boom: Aging in Rhode Island.