Addressing Mental Health Workforce Needs in Underserved Rural Areas: Accomplishments and Challenges


Reviews efforts to address mental health workforce needs in underserved rural areas and addresses three questions: 1) How is health and mental health workforce adequacy currently measured? 2) How do unique characteristics of rural communities and the mental health service delivery system challenge current methods for determining workforce adequacy? 3) What role has the federal government played in addressing health and mental health workforce needs in underserved rural areas? Finds that current workforce adequacy measurements all focus on physicians and are limited by the lack of a commonly accepted way to obtain needed data and by widely varying estimates of adequate population-to-provider ratios. In addition, the pluralistic and minimally coordinated nature of the mental health services system makes it difficult to translate methods for estimating workforce adequacy from health to mental health. Finally, there are several federal efforts to address workforce needs that foster training, provide scholarships, fund demonstration programs, and allow foreign medical graduates to serve in underserved areas. Makes several recommendations pertaining to the collection of data, field-testing of estimation models, and increasing the supply of mental health service providers.

Maine Rural Health Research Center
Donna Bird, Patricia Dempsey, David Hartley