Mental Health Treatment Access: How Do Mental Health Treatment Use and Unmet Treatment Need Vary Among Rural and Urban Adults Nationally?

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2017
Project completed:
June 2020

Recent research indicates that residents of rural areas have similar rates and residents of semi-rural areas have higher rates of mental health illnesses than residents of large metro areas. Although rural residents on average need mental health services just as much as their urban counterparts, a dearth of research has investigated unmet mental health treatment need and treatment utilization amongst rural and urban residents with mental health problems. Using nationally representative data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this study will a) estimate rates of unmet treatment need and treatment utilization and b) investigate the individual-level (e.g., demographic, socioeconomic, region of residence, and health status) and policy-modifiable health care (e.g., insurance and access to a regular health care provider) correlates of unmet need and treatment utilization among metropolitan, micropolitan, and other non-metropolitan residents with a mental health condition. In addition, we will repeat our analyses of rates and correlates of unmet need and treatment use amongst Native Americans/American Indians. Our analyses could be used by health policy makers at national, state, and local levels to better target resources and programs toward particular geographic areas. Our findings on the correlates of unmet mental health treatment and treatment use could be used by policy makers at multiple levels to target services toward the highest risk groups and identify factors that could be potentially modified (e.g., healthcare access) to improve access to mental health care services and ultimately, reduce the incidence and burden of mental health problems. The findings of this project will also provide new information to guide the planning and development of interventions to better meet the mental health and substance use treatment needs of rural as all as urban Native Americans. The Rural and Underserved Health Research Center emphasizes Native Americans as a population of interest.