Reclaiming Joy – Pilot Evaluation of a Mental Health Peer Support Program for Older Adults who receive Medicaid

Purpose: Stigma and lack of access to providers create barriers to mental health treatment for older adults living in the community. In order to address these barriers, we developed and evaluated a peer support intervention for older adults receiving Medicaid services. Design and Methods: Reclaiming Joy is a mental health intervention that pairs an older adult volunteer with a participant (older adult who receives peer support). Volunteers receive training on the strengths-based approach, mental health and aging, goal setting and attainment, community resources, and safety. Participant–volunteer pairs meet once a week for 10 weeks. Participants establish and work toward goals (e.g., better self-care, social engagement) that they feel would improve their mental health and well-being. Aging services agencies provide a part time person to manage the program, match volunteers and participants, and provide ongoing support. Outcomes evaluation for this pilot study included pre/postintervention assessments of participants. Results: Thirty-two participants completed the intervention. Pre/post assessment group means showed statistically significant improvementfor depression but not for symptoms of anxiety. Quality-of-life indicators for health and functioning also improved for participants with symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Implications: The Reclaiming Joy peer support intervention has potential for reducing depression and increasing quality of life in low-income older adults who have physical health conditions. It is feasible to administer and sustain the intervention through collaborative efforts with minimal program resources and a small amount of technical assistance.