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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Report: Address Rural-Urban Mental-Health Care Gap

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Thursday, June 1, 2023   

A new report underscores the challenges of getting mental health treatment when living in rural areas, like much of Montana.

The Bipartisan Policy Center report said integrating primary, mental health and substance-use care improves patient outcomes and is often more cost-effective. But 60% of rural counties lack a psychiatrist and nearly half do not have a psychologist.

Kendall Strong, senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said it means a majority of rural Americans must rely on their primary care provider for mental health services, or travel long distances to get proper help.

"When they do go see a provider, a lot of the stakeholders we talked to mentioned that the stigma around getting mental health, behavioral health, substance-use care in rural areas seriously persists," Strong observed. "Which is really worrisome, because then, we think people just may not be going to get the care that they need."

One in seven Americans lives in a rural area. The report called on Congress to create incentives for behavioral health care providers to work in rural communities to help address the shortages, perhaps even giving them a federal tax credit to stay employed there.

Strong acknowledged the problems evident in rural areas mirror those in urban settings, but given the lack of adequate treatment resources in outlying places, the problems can become worse, requiring patients to need more acute care later on.

"More acute care, as we know, is often more expensive," Strong pointed out. "And because of the delicate interplay between behavioral health and physical health -- and we know how they feed off of each other -- we've seen instances in which not taking care of your primary care worsens your mental health, and vice versa."

The report also showed the need for mental health services rose dramatically after the COVID pandemic, and noted a spike in suicide and drug overdose deaths, especially among American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

Disclosure: The Bipartisan Policy Center contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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