Behavioral Health: Improving Rural and Urban Access

In order to effectively treat the 47.6 million individuals experiencing mental illness each year,1 health systems must first identify one of the key factors contributing to this growing issue – location. Rural and urban communities experience unique challenges that often create substantial obstacles for health systems to provide, and community members to receive, proper behavioral health treatment.

As the nation begins to prioritize mental and behavioral health, hospitals are looking for strategies to best serve these populations. Read this guide to discover the unique challenges and opportunities that come with behavioral health in rural and urban communities and how health systems can improve the overall health of their community by expanding access to these vital services.

47.6 million individuals experiencing mental illness each year

Icon-Behavioral Health Challenges Within Rural Communities

Behavioral Health Challenges Within Rural Communities

Approximately one-fifth of the U.S. population lives in rural communities, and about one-fifth of those living in rural communities, or 6.5 million individuals, have a mental illness.2 Although mental and behavioral health issues affect individuals across the nation, the prevalence of certain diagnoses and unmet treatment needs are not equally distributed.

It is estimated that as many as 65% of rural counties do not have psychiatrists, and more than 60% of rural Americans live in designated mental health provider shortage areas.2 Between 2010 and 2019, rural hospitals faced amplified risks of closure and will continue to experience this unless appropriate access to care and staffing issues are addressed.3

It is estimated that as many as 65% of rural counties do not have psychiatrists, and more than 60% of rural Americans live in designated mental health provider shortage areas

Read More

Urban Community Obstacles

Urban Community Obstacles

Today, more than 50% of the global population is living in cities, and by 2050 this rate is expected to increase to nearly 70%

Today, more than 50% of the global population is living in cities, and by 2050 this rate is expected to increase to nearly 70%.6 However, as more individuals migrate to urban communities, the risk of developing a mental or behavioral health illness rises. This has been found in studies that highlight city living increases anxiety disorders by approximately 21%, mood disorders by 39%, and roughly doubles schizophrenia rates.7

Additionally, whereas rural communities experience physical distance as an obstacle when seeking behavioral health treatment, urban communities run the risk of over-population. This leads to crowded emergency rooms (ERs) and mental health treatment centers – impeding an individual’s ability to receive high-quality services. These densely populated areas are known for elevating risk factors associated with mental illness due to poverty, homelessness, physical and mental disabilities, drug and alcohol abuse, and social alienation – factors that have only increased since the onset of COVID-19.7

Read More

Advantages of Behavioral Health Partnership for Rural and Urban Community Success

The challenges presented in both communities are clear; however, the resources available to aid in behavioral health prevention, treatment and recovery are often difficult for health systems to achieve without the specialized support of an industry expert.

Experts in the behavioral health space understand the specific challenges hindering accessibility and are well-equipped to handle the obstacles through the integration of a flexible strategy designed to address the unique needs of the community at hand. Further, being able to rely on a behavioral health expert for high-quality programs and services, fully trained and educated clinical staff and access to a national database of resource material, helps to alleviate the burden of independently running a successful behavioral health hospital.

Kindred Behavioral Health, a service line of Kindred Healthcare, is a leader in treating patients with mental health and substance use disorders through partnerships that integrate the latest innovative solutions – producing quality care and superior outcomes.

Discover how Kindred Behavioral Health can help your health system expand needed patient access and how Kindred’s tailored approach can address the unique needs of your patient demographic. Visit for more information.


  1. Mental health by the numbers. (2021). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from mhstats#:~:text=20.6%25%20of%20U.S.%20adults%20 experienced,2019%20(13.1%20million%20people).
  2. Morales, D. A., Barksdale, C. L., & Beckel-Mitchener, A. C. (2020, May 4). A call to action to address rural mental health disparities. Journal of clinical and translational science. PMC7681156/.
  3. Summers-Gabr, N. (2020, May). Rural–Urban Mental Health Disparities in the United States During COVID-19. American Psychological Association. https://psycnet.apa. org/fulltext/2020-38395-001.pdf
  4. Gale, J., Janis, J., Coburn, A., & Rochford, H. (2019, December). Behavioral Health in Rural America: Challenges and Opportunities. Rural Policy Research Institute. https:// Rural-America-Challenges-and-Opportunities-Executive- Summary-.pdf
  5. Gale, J. A., & Lambert, D. (2006, January 1). Mental Healthcare in Rural Communities: The Once and Future Role of Primary Care. North Carolina Medical Journal.
  6. Gruebner, O., Rapp, M. A., Adli, M., Kluge, U., Galea, S., & Heinz, A. (2017, February 24). Cities and Mental Health. Deutsches Arzteblatt international. https://www.
  7. Litman, T. (2021, March). Urban Sanity Understanding Urban Mental Health Impacts and How to Create Saner, Happier Cities. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. https://

Share This


Sign up to receive trends and strategies to optimize key hospital service lines.

Thank you for your submission.