[Noozhawk’s note: This article is part of Day 12 in Noozhawk’s 12-day, six-week special investigative series, Prescription for Abuse. Related links are below.]
Name: Dr. Nancy Leffert
Location: Santa Barbara
Role: Psychologist and educator
Addressing an issue as complex as prescription drug abuse among elderly adults starts with educating the public.
Dr. Nancy Leffert, president and CEO of Antioch University Santa Barbara, has dedicated the majority of her 40-year career to providing the community with the tools necessary to combat drug abuse — among all age groups.
With Leffert at the helm, Antioch recently initiated a Healthy Aging concentration in its Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program. The objective is to tackle issues plaguing Santa Barbara’s elderly community, such as the misuse of prescription medications.
“It’s an example of Antioch’s response to a relevant community need,” said Leffert, who holds a doctorate in child and adolescent psychology and was installed as Antioch Santa Barbara’s president in February. “We have a growing older population and there is nowhere in between San Francisco and Long Beach where there is training to help work with this population.”
With the Healthy Aging program, Antioch officials hope to not only counsel elderly adults individually but to assist and train those working with the elderly population, like caregivers, physicians and families.
“It’s a different skills set because you are having to deal with different sectors of the community,” Leffert told Noozhawk. “I saw this as a multiprong approach to aging.”
According to Leffert, older adults often aren’t receiving the proper treatment they need with prescription drugs. This is where Antioch is stepping in.
“It’s easy to prescribe the wrong amounts of medicine for them,” Leffert explained. “There are physiology changes, their biochemistry in their brain changes. I’m not a physician but physicians need special training to know how to prescribe to older people.”
Leffert said she and her colleagues are deeply concerned over older adults being taken advantage of.
“I have heard of older adults selling their drugs or not taking them to get money because they are on limited means,” said Leffert. “They are given pain medicine and someone in the neighborhood asks if they can buy it from them for a certain price. I’m not saying older people are drug dealers but people prey on them, and then they aren’t getting what they need.”
Antioch has just moved its campus to a higher-profile location in Anacota Plaza on the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets in downtown Santa Barbara. Leffert said she is hopeful that Antioch will also be more visible in the larger discussion of substance abuse in the Santa Barbara community.
“As an educational institution we need to participate in the community dialogue,” she said. “I want us to be a location where these things can be discussed, where we can have panel discussions and intellectual discussions. So I’m hoping that we will play a bigger role in the future and be a part of that dialogue.”