Issues and Views

Local, state, and national solutions

Advocate of Substance Abuse Programs for Elders Is
Nominee for Deputy Director, Nat'l Drug Control Office

By Mary Johnson

Fighting for Our HealthSubstance abuse among older adults remains a national problem that is exacerbated by a lack of prevention and treatment specifically geared for elders, say the CDC and other public health researchers. As an example of a local solution, IGSW News May-June issue featured a Boston Medical Center program that screens older adults for binge drinking. Here, we tell another part of the story, about a state official who provided essential leadership and support to the Boston program and similar local and statewide efforts and is now taking his commitment to the national level.

Michael Botticelli has served for the past nine years as director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, where, among many other challenges and achievements, he championed substance-abuse prevention and treatment for older adults.

"Older people are often left out of substance-use discussions," Botticelli said in a recent interview with IGSW News. "We've worked hard in Massachusetts to raise awareness of the problem among elders and to bring together people from aging services, public health, and substance abuse to find solutions." Through the department's multidisciplinary taskforce (the Massachusetts Partnership on Substance Abuse in Older Adults) and with state and local partners, Botticelli said, the focus has been on public information, training, and prevention. Ruth Grabel, a program specialist in the Healthy Aging and Disability Unit of the Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Partnership coordinator, credits Botticelli with helping to bring problems elders have with prescription medications, illicit substances, and alcohol and smoking to the fore and providing essential support. "Amid so many competing priorities," she said, "Michael saw a special population that needed attention and that hadn't received much. He recognized the need, then encouraged and helped us, with funding and materials and support for an annual conference."

During his tenure in Massachusetts, Botticelli was also gaining prominence in national discussions of policy and practice related to substance use and worked with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to implement National Outcomes Measures to gauge the effectiveness of services. He has just been nominated to be the next deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control in Washington, D.C. Will he still be a champion for elders?

"Substance abuse among older adults is not just a problem in Massachusetts, but nationally as well," Botticelli said. "I hope to use my new position to bring national attention to this important issue."

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Substance abuse is increasing among the older population in the United States, at great human and economic cost, yet too often remains hidden and misunderstood. Through case examples, assessment questions, and interactive activities, this course brings social service providers and others to an understanding of substance abuse as an issue that affects the older adults in their practice. Learn to recognize substance abuse and to undertake steps to effective identification, referral, and intervention.

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See also: Treatment Approaches for Advanced Substance Abuse

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―Janice Panzer, screening specialist for Southern Crescent AAA–
Three Rivers Regional Commission, and registered nurse

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Copyright © 2012 Trustees of Boston University. All rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated or distributed in any form without written permission from the publisher: The Institute for Geriatric Social Work, Boston University School of Social Work, 264 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, U.S.A.; e-mail: igsw@bu.edu.