In 2012 Geminus Corporation began exploring the possibility of launching a peer-to-peer program to help build protective factors mitigating alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use and abuse, along with addressing mental health issues, among Indiana’s seniors.

Geminus Corporation was accepted into SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Service to Science program. Service to Science is a national initiative designed to enhance the evaluation capacity of innovative programs and practices that address critical substance use prevention and related behavioral health needs. In the spring of 2013, Geminus Corporation and Praxis Strategies and Solutions, Inc. conducted a statewide needs assessment consisting of an environmental scan of secondary data on Indiana’s senior population, an inventory of senior service agencies, and a senior survey focusing on behaviors and perceptions related to illegal substance use and the abuse or misuse of alcohol and medications.

The Elder LEAD program was then developed to fill gaps in both the prevention of substance abuse and misuse, and the prevention and identification of mental health problems among seniors. The preventive maintenance aspect of Elder LEAD reaches seniors without them having to first openly admit that they have a problem and helps to bridge this gap. Additionally, the gains in knowledge and peer support by the Elder LEAD’s peer-to-peer model contribute to a participant’s decision to seek additional treatment when needed.