Thanks to $1.35 million in recently awarded funding from The John A. Hartford Foundation, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is reaffirming its commitment to meeting the health care needs of older adults through adequate social work support.
This three-year grant will build upon the successes of the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Initiative (HGSWI), which has been coordinated by GSA since 1999 and has supported over 200 doctoral fellows and faculty scholars who are helping to build a workforce of social workers trained and educated in geriatrics.
The new money will be used to establish a Hartford/GSA National Center on Gerontological Social Work Excellence, which will focus on three major objectives: a collaboration with the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) to develop social work research leaders to help advance evidence-based knowledge related to VA practice in aging; the mobilization of the current HGSWI Alumni Network using their expertise to impact practice and policy; and the creation of five Hartford Academic Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work at institutions of higher education.
"The grant builds on our many successes over the last 13 years and gives us an opportunity to shift our attention to better infusing social work health care practice with evidence-based knowledge," said GSA Deputy Executive Director Linda Harootyan, MSW, who will serve as program director of the National Center. "Interdisciplinary collaboration and partnership, a core of GSA's mission, will be a cornerstone of this effort."
The National Center also will seek funding from a variety of sources to support and expand its objectives and functions, as well as ensure its sustainability.
The grant is designed to maintain the momentum of progress made by the HGSWI and to have a greater impact on practice. An estimated 220,000 licensed social workers provide services to older adults and their families in the U.S., but only five percent have specialized in gerontology. The John A. Hartford Foundation has already invested over $62 million in addressing this recognized shortage in trained geriatric social workers.
"The John A. Hartford Foundation is pleased that GSA will be leading these renewed efforts and that we will be continuing the important public-private partnership with the Veterans Administration," said Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD, the foundation's senior program officer for this grant. "The work of the Hartford/VA research scholars supported under this program will have direct impact on social work interventions in the provision of VA services to older veterans."
The entire project will be steered by a National Advisory Board chaired by GSA Fellow Barbara Berkman, DSW, PhD, who also serves as the national program director for the HGSWI's Scholars Program.
"I am so excited to be working with such an esteemed group of individuals who represent many disciplines and who will support the National Center by providing guidance and oversight to the program," said Berkman, the Helen Rehr/Ruth Fizdale Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work. "These board members will play an important role as we envision the future of the HGSWI."
She will be joined on the board by former GSA President Lisa Gwyther, MSW, LCSW, of the Duke University School of Medicine; GSA Fellow J Taylor Harden, PhD, RN, FAAN, the program director of GSA's National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence; GSA Treasurer Nancy Kropf, PhD, MSW, of the Georgia State University School of Social Work; GSA member Ken Schmader, MD, of the Duke University School of Medicine; and GSA Fellow Nancy L. Wilson, MA, MSW, of the Baylor College of Medicine.
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society -- and its 5,400+ members -- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA's structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.
Founded in 1929, The John A. Hartford Foundation is a committed champion of health care training, research and service system innovations that will ensure the well-being and vitality of older adults. Its mission is to improve the health of older Americans. Today, the Foundation is America's leading philanthropy with a sustained interest in aging and health. Through its grantmaking, The John A. Hartford Foundation seeks specifically to enhance and expand the training of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals who care for elders; and promote innovations in the integration and delivery of services for all older people.