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Federal Grant Will Strengthen Geriatric Care in Wyoming

July 21, 2015
older man and woman at table in dining room being served cookies by woman
UW College of Health Sciences students standing, from left, Melissa Mehle and Allyson Dolence, both from Rock Springs, serve meals at the Jackson Senior Center during a 2012 training experience offered through the Wyoming Geriatric Education Center. (UW Photo)

A $2.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the University of Wyoming will strengthen geriatric care and training throughout Wyoming.

The Wyoming Geriatric Education Center (WyGEC) at UW has received a three-year Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) award announced during the recent White House Conference on Aging.

“The GWEP award is a significant achievement for UW and Wyoming,” says WyGEC Director Christine McKibbin, GWEP project director at UW. “We will be able to reach and serve older adults more efficiently.”

She says the Wyoming GWEP will introduce many new programs and training opportunities, such as chronic disease self-management programs for older adults throughout the state, and will create an online Technology and Aging Certificate -- the first of its kind in the nation. The funding also will create a Geriatric Medicine fellowship at the UW Family Medicine Residency Program in Casper -- the first of its kind in Wyoming.

Additionally, many established WyGEC programs, such as the Geriatric Assessment Team at the UW Family Medicine Residency Program in Casper, will be expanded, and a geriatric teleECHO clinic (allowing for distance education and service) will be expanded.

“This funding will expand WyGEC’s traditional reach beyond continuing education of health care professions to actually improve health outcomes among older adults in Wyoming,” McKibbin says.

This will be accomplished, she says, through the standard trainings but also by providing training to primary care practice sites, direct care workers, family caregivers and older adults in the communities.

“We will be able to engage both high-touch and high-tech strategies to learn what works to improve services and health outcomes,” McKibbin says. “What we learn in Wyoming may serve as a model for other states and rural areas.”

Aging and technology are a primary focus of the GWEP. WyGEC will work with First Layer Health of Minnesota to implement an innovative remote care management support program to optimize services to older adults. The online Technology and Aging Certificate will be a collaboration with the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities at UW to educate health care professionals about use of home monitoring and assistive technology for older adults.

Competition for the GWEP was steep, with applications from a variety of health care institutions, universities and community-based service organizations. The Wyoming GWEP, one of 44 awards across 29 states, is a partnership with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, the Wyoming Department of Health Aging Division and the Cheyenne VA Medical Center, with additional collaborations with the UW Family Medicine Residency Program in Casper, Wyoming Dementia Care, Mountain-Pacific Quality Health Foundation and the CNA training program at Fremont County BOCES, and other collaborations.

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About WyGEC

WyGEC trains faculty, students and health care professionals to better meet the unique health care needs of older adults in Wyoming. It provides live and online training on topics including mental health, end of life care, chronic disease management, care transitions, and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. WyGEC also sponsors educational conferences and seminars across the state addressing geriatric health care.

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