The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded $3.75 million to the Department of Family Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, for the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). In 2015, the Department of Family Medicine and Keck School Dean Laura Mosqueda, MD, who was chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the time, originally were awarded these funds to create a pipeline of health care professionals explicitly trained to provide quality care for older adults.

Professor of Clinical Family Medicine Bonnie Olsen, PhD, now the primary investigator on the new HRSA GWEP grant, is looking to expand the impact of the interprofessional USC GWEP team with this new round of funding.

“This grant cycle has a greater emphasis on training primary care providers in quality care for older adults,” Olsen shared. “We identified a new community partner and we are very fortunate to be teaming up with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which is seeking enrichment of geriatric competencies in their providers.”

With this new round of funding, the USC GWEP team is extending its outreach to more community-based agencies to further the expansion of quality care for older adults and working with patients and their families to improve health outcomes. The team will provide services to include more culturally diverse and low-income older adults living in Los Angeles.

Since the initial funding in 2015, the USC GWEP has led and created several programs at USC that include the Geriatric Assessment Program, caregiver support groups in partnership with Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, the Interprofessional Geriatrics Curriculum for students, and a yearly Interprofessional Health Care Symposium on Aging for the community, all of which support the goal engaging the community in the creation of a quality health system that serves the growing number of older adults and their health care needs.

Since 2017, the USC GWEP team has partnered with Eisner Family Health Center, where they have created several innovative interprofessional care models focused on older adults with multiple comorbidities. With the new funding, the USC GWEP team will focus on assisting Eisner in developing their clinical site into a center of excellence for geriatric primary care.

With the new funding, the USC GWEP team continues to partner with Eisner in hopes that they will continue to grow into a center of excellence for geriatric primary care. (Photo/Claire Norman)

Additionally, faculty from eight professional schools at USC are creating sustainable programs in league with five affordable housing sites for older adults in the Los Angeles area. These sessions are focused on the core issues that diverse older adults face including tackling problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, chronic disease management, advanced care planning, elder abuse and opioid misuse.

The announcement of this grant to USC, in addition to three other HRSA GWEP awards within California, comes on the heels of California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing an executive order to create a Master Plan for Aging. This plan would be a blueprint for promoting healthy aging as California’s population of those who are 65 and older is projected to be 8.6 million by 2030.

“The Golden State is getting grayer and we need to be ready for the major population changes headed our way,” Newsom said in a press release. “An aging population will introduce new opportunities for economic and community growth but also drive increased health and long-term care costs. We need a plan that brings everyone to the table — local communities, labor, private sector and philanthropy — to help us understand what’s coming and guide us toward taking better care of older Californians.”

— Claire Norman