Conner is a licensed clinical social worker and Assistant Professor of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida. Her research investigates the factors that influence disparities in mental health service utilization and treatment outcomes for African American elders with depression. Dr. Conner is currently the primary-investigator of a study funded by NIMH (K23 MH09051-01) entitled “Enhancing Mental Health Treatment Engagement among Older Adults with Depression”. This study tests a novel dual component intervention designed to reduce stigma, provide elders in recovery an opportunity to give back to their community by serving as lay health workers (i.e. Peer Educators) to engage acutely depressed elders into treatment. Her peer reviewed work can be seen in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Journal of Mental Health and Aging, Journal of Aging Studies, Journal of Health and Social Policy, and The Journal of Gerontological Social Work.


Objective: Innovative strategies are needed to reduce the impact of stigma as a barrier to mental health services for older adults living with a mental illness, and to reduce un-necessary re-hospitalizations among older adults living with both physical illness and co-morbid mental illness. Th is study examined the impact of enhancing an already existing hospital re-admission reduction program (Care Transitions) with Peer support to better meet the needs of older adults being transitioned to back to the community from a recent hospitalization.
Methods: This study two-armed randomized controlled trial to compare the Care Transitions Intervention alone (CTI) with then enhancement of Peer Support (CTI+PS) on outcomes of interest including stigma, depression symptoms, and hospital readmissions in a sample of 25 racially/ethnically diverse older adults being released from our partner hospital aft er a recent admission for a medical illness, who also have a mental health diagnosis of depression.
Findings: Preliminary results suggest that adding peer supports to CTI enhances the ability of this transitional intervention to reduce hospital readmissions and to improve patient health outcomes. Participants assigned to the CTI+PS condition had signifi cantly lower 30-day re-admissions (10% vs 15%), and 60-day re-admissions (10% vs 20%), identifi ed signifi cantly less medication management challenges (via semi-structured interview), and were more likely to have completed an outpatient healthcare visit (85% compared to 75%) as compared to participants who received CTI alone.
Impact: This research suggests that adding peer support to the already evidence-based care transitions intervention significantly enhances its’ ability to yield positive outcomes in reduced hospital readmission; particularly among older African Americans. The results of this small study should be replicated in a fully-powered randomized controlled trial.
Funding: Funding for this study was provided by a University of South Florida Research Award (PI- Kyaien Conner)