Non-Metropolitan and Metropolitan Trends in Mental Health Treatment Availability in Community Health and Community Mental Health Centers


Rurality of residence is associated with higher unmet need for mental health treatment, and non-metropolitan counties have fewer mental health professionals than metropolitan counties. Community mental health centers (CMHCs) and community health centers (CHCs) are two types of federally funded sites where persons may seek mental health treatment. The purpose of this study was to show how the supply of CMHCs and CHCs delivering mental health services changed over time, from 2000 to 2019, in non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas.

The Health Resources and Services Administration provided historical data for CHCs and CMHCs (from 2000 to 2019) in non-metropolitan and metropolitan counties of the U.S. Metropolitan and non-metropolitan county status of the primary CHC site and CMHC site were determined using the core-based statistical area classification of each county's location. We created figures to visualize trends in the number of CHCs providing mental health services and the number of CMHCs from 2000 to 2019 in non-metropolitan and metropolitan counties.

We found that the supply of CMHCs decreased substantially from 2000 to 2019 in non-metropolitan counties. However, the supply of CHCs offering mental health services increased substantially over the same time period. These gains were pronounced in both non-metropolitan and metropolitan counties, although growth was faster in metropolitan counties.

The increased supply of CHCs offering mental health services in non-metropolitan counties may have continued to assure or even increase access to some mental health treatment during a decline in the supply of CMHCs. However, additional surveillance is necessary to monitor the accessibility of particular types of mental health services in non-metropolitan counties.

Rural and Underserved Health Research Center
Tyrone Borders, Timothy Williams, Katherine Youngen, Julia Cecil