Lack of behavioral health access and education in non-urban communities, especially ones largely populated by farmers, has become a growing issue across the nation. This concern is expected to increase if health systems do not respond appropriately. A recent article published by Med City News details the shortcomings of behavioral health accessibility and availability within community-based areas as they experience barriers like physical distance, staffing shortages and lack of general behavioral and mental health education.

Strategies to effectively provide behavioral health to community-based areas

Fortunately, there are a variety of opportunities available to health systems that can aid in greater access to this vital form of care, while improving the health of communities and enhancing a hospital’s overall outcomes.

For example, an increase in the use of telemedicine has enabled patients to better access various forms of care through technology. However, regulations surrounding telemedicine can deter many clinicians from investing in telemedicine, especially within communities consisting mostly of farmland and lower income households. This is where additional integration of behavioral health services can play a pivotal role in patient outcomes.

Strategies to help prioritize behavioral and mental healthcare within non-urban communities include:1

  • Develop and implement electronic medical records (EMRs) to support clinical integration and communication;
  • Continued integration of educational resources and programs emphasizing the importance of behavioral health treatment in an effort to further combat the negative stigma around receiving care;
  • Expanded use of technology, such as telehealth, to provide psychiatric support among other treatment options; and
  • Aid from an experienced partner who is dedicated to providing high-quality, tailored behavioral healthcare to benefit a community’s specific needs.

Addressing the needs of non-urban community members is more important than ever, as farmers continue to experience additional pressures and stress due to factors that are often out of their control. Having to rely on weather, crop prices and political decisions as a means to an income can generate a multitude of mental health issues that sometimes cannot be physically seen.

In fact, recent years have shown that agricultural communities are struggling financially, leading to higher rates of suicide among farmers. In a 2017 study, University of Iowa researchers found that farmers and other agricultural workers had the highest suicide rate among all occupations from 1992 to 2010, on average 3.5 times that of the general population.2

This leads back to the importance of access, availability and acceptance of behavioral health services. The past few years, and even more so throughout COVID-19, have highlighted the crucial need for behavioral health prioritization in all communities.

Health systems that work toward providing this vital form of care can not only aid in a communities’ overall well-being, but create more opportunities for their hospital to provide a variety of care options to patients in different care settings.

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 demographics. Visit KindredBehavioralHealth.com for more information.


References:

  1. 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. https://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/67/1/66.
  2. Evans, J. (2021, August 19). How to provide mental health support in rural communities. MedCity News. https://medcitynews.com/2021/08/how-to-provide-mental-health-support-in-rural-communities/.
By Kindred Behavioral Health