UAMS Spotlights Unprecedented Health Care Access to Elderly

By Kevin Rowe

LITTLE ROCK – Most elderly Arkansans today are no more than an hour’s drive from quality geriatric health care, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) officials told a gathering of state lawmakers and health care officials today.


Over the last few years, the UAMS Arkansas Aging Initiative has established eight Regional Centers on Aging throughout the state. Seven of the centers include a specially trained geriatric social worker, a geriatric nurse practitioner and a geriatrician. The Hot Springs-based center was established this year and is still forming its geriatric team.


Lawmakers attending the UAMS luncheon event were able to visit with the professionals who staff all eight Centers on Aging, which were represented at booths set up at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.


“Our statewide, comprehensive geriatric program is unmatched by any other state,” said Claudia Beverly, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Arkansas Aging Initiative and the John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at UAMS. “Thanks to the foresight of our state’s leaders, Arkansas is in a much better position to care for its aging population.”


These eight centers, plus four outreach sites, put 90 percent of Arkansans age 65 and older within 60 miles of an interdisciplinary geriatric health care team.


The centers are: Center on Aging Northeast in Jonesboro; Delta Center on Aging in West Memphis, which includes an outreach site called the Delta Center on Aging in Helena-West Helena; South Central Center on Aging in Pine Bluff; South Arkansas Center on Aging in El Dorado; Texarkana Regional Center on Aging; West Central Center on Aging in Fort Smith; Oaklawn Senior Health Care Center in Hot Springs and Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale. The Schmieding Center has three outreach sites: Bella Vista, Harrison and Mountain Home.


State lawmakers attending the two-hour event were Reps. Toni Bradford of Pine Bluff, Joan Cash of Jonesboro, Clark Hall of Marvell, Tracy Pennartz of Fort Smith, Sandra Prater of Jacksonville, Gregg Reep of Warren and R.D. “Rick” Saunders of Hot Springs.


The Arkansas Aging Initiative is a program of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at UAMS, of which Beverly is associate director. The AAI was created in 2001 and the original seven centers are funded annually with $1.5 million to $2 million from the state’s share of the tobacco settlement funds. The Oaklawn Senior Health Care Center in Hot Springs is being funded by the Oaklawn Foundation. The program works in partnership with local regional hospitals, the AHECs, the Area Agency on Aging and each community.


At each of the regional Centers on Aging, the goal is to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families. Educational programs are available for health care professionals, students in health care disciplines, older adults, their families and the community.


The first seven centers have senior health clinics that are owned and operated by the local/regional hospitals. An interdisciplinary geriatric team sees patients who need primary care and those who have complex health care needs. This team works closely with families to help make the best decisions about the care of a loved one, particularly those with complex health care needs.


The services provided by the Centers on Aging also complement, rather than duplicate, services provided by other organizations. The centers work in partnership with their local Area Agency on Aging programs, for example, with many of the Area Agencies on Aging contracting with the Centers on Aging to offer educational services.


By improving access for patients today, the Arkansas Aging Initiative and its Centers on Aging have built the foundation for meeting higher demands for geriatric care as baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond. The AAI also is looking strategically at the future of geriatric health care in Arkansas by leading a group called Partners in Planning.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit