A new grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to LSU's School of Social Work is being split among Ochsner and several other organizations in Baton Rouge to tackle Alzheimer's training. 

A 5-year $3.7 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to LSU's School of Social Work is funding research and training to teach social workers, nurses and doctors how to work with geriatric patients in Louisiana. 

The grant is going to a partnership among LSU, Ochsner Health System, Chamberlain University College of Nursing and  nonprofit Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area. 

The goal is to offer students, nurses and doctors experiential dementia training to help geriatric patients in the primary care doctor's office. The reason the focus is on training primary care staff rather than relying on patients to visit specialists is because the primary care doctors are seeing patients more often for health care due to the lack of specialists and wait times for appointments. The program is called the Louisiana Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. Telemedicine also is expected to be used to offer health care services during the program. 

"We expect that this program will close the gap in dementia-friendly practice between their primary care physicians compared to a specialist," said Scott Wilks, LSU School of Social Work professor who is leading the initiative. 

There are only 50 certified geriatric specialists across Louisiana's population of more than 400,000 elderly adults. On a national scale, fewer than 4 percent of licensed social workers are certified in geriatric care and less than 1 percent of nurses have the same expertise. 

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.