Omaha – A first-of-its-kind assessment of hoarding disorder within Douglas and Sarpy counties is being released today by a team of faculty and student researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) Grace Abbott School of Social Work (GASSW).
The report, titled “Beyond the Sensationalism: Professional Responses to Hoarding Disorder in the Omaha Community” highlights the need to expand mental health services related to hoarding and provides information on opportunities for growth within the metro area for recognition and sensitivity about those suffering from the disorder.
In May 2013 hoarding disorder was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness. It impacts approximately five percent of the U.S. population and research shows that people who hoard miss an average of seven work days per month. As a private mental health issue, hoarding is just starting to be recognized as a social problem at a community level.
“It is estimated that there are between 12,000 and 21,000 people who hoard living in and around Omaha,” said Jen Baker, a master of social work student and lead author of the paper. “Statistically speaking, that is double the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Ignoring this disorder and its impact on our families, friends and neighbors will have unfortunate and lasting consequences for the community. It is our hope that the paper will spark a dialogue about the importance of recognizing and treating this disorder.”
The study, also known as a white paper, was written under the guidance of Christiana Bratiotis, assistant professor of social work at UNO and a nationally recognized expert in hoarding disorder. The goal of the study, which is accessible for free online at this link, was to be accessible by the community and bring awareness to the issue as well as generate conversation and produce activism.
The white paper identifies hoarding as a “distinct disorder with specific symptomology” and uses case studies to dispel common myths associated with hoarding. The study also includes reports on current responses, special sections designed for families of those affected by hoarding disorder and notes about best practices for diagnosis and intervention.
“Hoarding disorder is often blamed on personal shortcomings like laziness, poor motivation or addiction,” said Baker. “Often, family members, friends and community resource agencies become overwhelmed and frustrated losing sight of the suffering associated with this disorder. They end up focusing only on the objects, which are actually the smallest part of the problem but because of sensationalism, get the most attention.
In response to the large number of those affected by hoarding disorder, the Omaha Hoarding Task Force was launched nine months ago and is one of over 120 task forces in North America. The group is comprised of 50 people and represents more than 30 community agencies including law enforcement, crisis response, adult protective services, animal welfare, mental health providers and public health officials.
In response to the findings in the paper, the GASSW team will work with the Omaha Hoarding Task Force on developing and implementing appropriate trainings for community service providers and, eventually, families and support networks of people who hoard.
The white paper authors received funding from GASSW to produce and distribute the white paper that will be sent to more than 250 organizations throughout Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
In addition to Baker and Bratiotis, the papers authors are: Tiffany Andreasen, MSW; Marcia Ghali Bergren, MSW; and current MSW students Jamie Frost and Laura Sanchez.
For questions about the study, please contact Charley Reed, UNO media relations coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 402.554.2129.
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