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Older Adult System of Integrated Services
MHSA Program Highlight

Article Colin T. Hart

It was 2009 and Celia, a resident of San Mateo County, was 71 years old when she began experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

“I was not feeling well at work, I was throwing up, and I was sent home,” she said. Celia continued experiencing these symptoms until she was referred to the Older Adult System of Integrated Services, better known as OASIS.

OASIS is a program available to San Mateo County residents, age 60 and over, dealing with mental health issues that impact their day to day functioning. Clients come into the program with multiple co-occurring conditions related to physical health, cognitive impairment, substance use, functional limitations and social isolation, in addition to their serious mental health conditions. This requires more hands-on case management, and greater collaboration between psychiatrists and primary care providers to ensure proper medication management and preventative medicine to enable and support the clients to remain in a community based setting. Last year, OASIS served a total of 297 clients, aged 74 on average, who are increasingly fragile and medically complex.

“From the beginning, everyone is very attentive,” said Celia. “They will stay with you. They would meet me at work, at home, anywhere.”

A key component of OASIS treatment is providing in-home evaluation and support, which includes consultation services to empower families and care givers throughout treatment – an overarching strategy of BHRS. 

“The program is very friendly and professional,” Celia added. “They included my family, my daughter and my husband. They are like family to me… no, they are my family.”

The support to OASIS clients is enhanced by the strong commitment and dedication of the direct service staff who regularly go the extra mile to ensure clients not only get the essential care they need, but to provide emotional and concrete support. They help clients to achieve the highest quality of life possible and to remain residing in the community for as long as they wish to and safely can.

Celia couldn’t say enough good things about the OASIS team.

“They really care about me and they are my support, physically and emotionally,” she said. My team helped me with reminding me to take my medication, get out of the house and exercise.  They even go for walks with me!  Without them, I feel like I would be missing something.”

The population of the United States is growing older.  In the last six years, there was a three percent increase in older adults – that’s 14.2 million adults age 65 and older. According to California Department of Finance Population projections, San Mateo County will see an increase of more than 150,000 residents 65 and older by 2050. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes that older adults pose a greater risk of suffering from certain mental disorders due to a variety of reason such as isolation, stigma, lack of transportation and access to services. Mental health disorders are often overlooked when it comes to healthcare services in general. San Mateo County and the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) recognize this need and have responded with several programs serving the older adult population. They have prioritized this as a need for the next three years of MHSA program planning.

In the past eight years Celia built her skills on the way to wellness and recovery as she regained her independence.

“Next year I will be 80 years old and in January I will be celebrating 50 years with my husband!” she said with fervor.  Celia, on behalf of BHRS and the MHSA, congratulations!  Today, we celebrate with you.

For referrals to OASIS community-based mental health services please call (650) 573-3689.

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