In response to large numbers of senior center clients who suffer untreated depression and the dearth of geriatric mental health providers, we have partnered with senior center stakeholders to simplify Behavioral Activation (BA) to match the skill set of lay volunteers (?Do More, Feel Better?; DMFB). The lay delivery model: 1. makes use of existing volunteer resources that can address the insufficient workforce; and 2. has potential for being an acceptable and sustainable delivery model. However, the capacity of this model to engage the same target (increased activity) and to yield comparable clinical outcomes as professionally-delivered interventions is yet to be determined in a fully-powered trial. This Collaborative R01 proposes fully powered randomized effectiveness trial testing the effect of DMFB in comparison to professionally-delivered BA (MSW BA) on increased activity level (target) and decreased depressive symptoms.
The specific aims are to: 1. Test the effectiveness of DMFB, in comparison to MSW BA, for depressed (PHQ- 9>10 and Ham-D>14) older adults (>60) on increasing overall activity level (target) and reducing depression symptoms; and 2. test whether increased activity level predicts greater reduction in depression severity and whether increased activity's impact on depression is non-inferior across conditions. Client participants will be a total of 288 older (>60 years) non-psychotic, non-demented individuals with elevated depressive symptoms from 6 Seattle, 6 New York City, and 6 Tampa area senior centers serving economically and ethnically diverse communities. Eligible clients will be randomized within senior center to either DMFB (n=144) or MSW BA (n=144). Two lay volunteers and 2 MSWs per center will provide the intervention. Our proposal responds to the 2012 IOM report which highlighted the dearth of mental health providers for older adults and the need to develop a workforce of nontraditional providers. DMFB is a streamlined BA intervention that has high potential for sustainability by making use of an untapped volunteer resource and supervision infrastructure within senior centers. Our findings will identify effective interventions for an underserved and difficult to engage population, our partners in aging services would be pleased to implement either delivery format of BA to activate depressed older adults.

Public Health Relevance

In response to large numbers of senior center clients who suffer untreated depression and the dearth of geriatric mental health providers, we have simplified Behavioral Activation to be delivered by lay volunteers (?Do More, Feel Better?; DMFB). The focus of Behavioral Activation is to guide clients to reengage in daily pleasant and rewarding activities, and reduce depressive symptoms. If we can show that the lay delivery model has positive impact in comparison to MSW-delivered Behavioral Activation, we will have identified an effective intervention that can be used by a large untapped workforce of older adult volunteers across the nation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1)
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Evans, Jovier D
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University of Washington
Schools of Medicine
United States
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