Mental Health in Rural Areas

An innovative new program aims to increase the number of mental health services available in rural communities. A $1.7 million dollar grant, recently awarded to the University of Arizona College of Nursing, is funding the effort.

From Arizona Public Media:

The grant won by the University of Arizona will help nine mental health nurse practitioner students each year get hands on experience.

The students will work at integrated care facilities in rural and underserved areas.

Integrated care facilities provide services that cover primary and mental health.

“When a patient comes into the lobby there is no stigma because nobody knows are they going to see the behavioral health provider, or are they going to see the physical health provider,” said Rene Love, the director of the UA College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

In all, 36 students will take part in the program. College of Nursing faculty will encourage the students to work in Arizona, but they can work anywhere.

According to KGUN9 in Tucson, “The four-year grant  will allow nine students each year to help pay for school and sharpen their skills at rural, border and medically underserved cities specially chosen for collaborative care. ”

If a majority of the nurse practitioner students decide to do their work in Arizona, that could help move the mental health needle in our state. A recent report in Cronkite News/Arizona PBS pointed out, “The U.S. has only about a quarter of the beds that the Treatment Advocacy Center considers a safe minimum for mental health care. And Arizona has only about a third of the national rate.”

But despite the numbers – Arizona ranked 49th on Mental Health America’s 2018 report on the State of Mental Health in America – analysts and advocates said the state should get credit for innovative programs it does supply. The state is trying, in the words of Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director John Snook.

“I think there’s a recognition of that as a problem,” Snook said about the lack of access to treatment in Arizona. “And there are some ideas that the state is looking to that are really working. And so, there’s opportunities for the rest of the state to say, ‘Let’s try to make that happen here as well.'”

KTAR-News quoted University of Arizona President, Robert C. Robbins, MD, as saying, “I’m glad to see that the College of Nursing is helping to meet this need while also strengthening training for nurse practitioners, who hopefully will choose to serve these areas once they begin their careers.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this new program and how it might change the face of mental health services in Arizona’s rural communities. How do you believe it will help? And how much? Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues facing the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

 

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