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For patients with difficult-to-treat depression, seeking help from a mental health professional is a good option. However, because of a shortage of mental health specialists, in particular psychiatrists who specialize in the care of older adults, it can be challenging to get an appointment with a psychiatrist in our community. A study at the University of Pittsburgh called OPTIMUM (Optimizing Depression Treatment in Older Adults) is trying to bridge this gap. Researchers with OPTIMUM are trying to learn how to best treat people 60 and older who have difficult-to-treat depression. The OPTIMUM project is studying whether doctors should switch antidepressants or combine antidepressants for patients who are still depressed despite having tried at least two different antidepressant medications.

The OPTIMUM team works closely with patients’ primary care physicians (PCP). OPTIMUM provides psychiatric treatment recommendations, close monitoring of patients’ mood symptoms and can be conducted entirely by phone. PCPs and patients remain in control of care. In other words, it is always the decision of patients and their health care providers whether or not to follow the recommendations. Both patients and PCPs receive support from the OPTIMUM mental health team.

Some of the benefits of participating in the OPTIMUM research program are continued care with patients’ PCPs with expert psychiatric treatment recommendations provided by the study team; more attention and monitoring compared to that received in a PCP office or clinic; free evaluation of patients’ depression; the potential of helping others in the future by advancing medical knowledge; and, if the patient wants, an evaluation of the patient’s memory by the OPTIMUM team.

To learn more about OPTIMUM, or to find out if you or a loved one may be eligible to participate, please call 412-586-9851 or visit http://www.OPTIMUMstudy.org.

 

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