Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services hires full time psychiatrist for seniors in need with grant dollars

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Staff report

For the past five years, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services has had a part-time psychiatrist on its team to help local seniors in need of mental health services.

But, the demand for help by those seniors has grown and led to long wait times, so the organization launched the JFS Psychiatry Program with the financial support of the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation.

The funding will allow JFS to hire a full-time psychiatrist (with a focus on seniors) within the program and offer services on a sliding scale – meaning patients will pay what they can.

“With wait times in excess of weeks to months and beyond, there simply isn’t enough supply to meet the demand, leaving many seniors in need of care going untreated, undiagnosed and resorting to dangerous self-medication often from substance abuse and other harmfully needless measures,” said Danielle Hartman, President & CEO of Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.

In addition, the program will pay for a full year of consulting with Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Lehmann will guide JFS as it creates and develops an expanded Psychiatry Program. JFS is also partnering with Florida Atlantic University to establish a community based practicum site for FAU Medical Psychiatry students.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression and they do not seek help because they don’t understand they could feel better with appropriate treatment.

Palm Beach County is home to 262,076 seniors, a higher percentage of seniors (22%) than any U.S. county of comparable size.

Depression among Florida seniors (65-and-older) increased to 16 percent, or about 672,000 people.

Over 1 in 5 adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder, the most common of which are dementia and depression, according to the World Health Organization.

Rales JFS, which has provided affordable counseling and mental health services to those in need (regardless of religion) in South Palm Beach County since its inception 40 years ago, is committed to relieving the stress and what many call a shortage of mental health professionals available.

Dr. Lehmann spoke last month on the topic of “key issues in meeting the mental health needs of older adults.”