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Integrating Care Can Help Address Mental Health in Rural America

Washington, DC – The Bipartisan Policy Center continues its work on both integration and rural issues, releasing a new report today on the integration of behavioral health and primary care in rural America. The report, Achieving Behavioral Health Care Integration in Rural America, focuses on tackling the barriers to integration in rural areas amid the growing need for accessible mental health and substance use support in rural and frontier areas of the country, which are home to 1 in 7 Americans.  

Rural communities in America have long faced significant challenges in accessing behavioral health services. Limited availability of specialized mental and behavioral health professionals and geographical barriers associated with remote locations have hindered individuals’ access to the care they need and deserve. Recognizing this need, BPC, with the support of Helmsley Charitable Trust, provides four key areas of focus:  

  • Broad, foundational policies at the federal level that will lay the groundwork for integrated behavioral health care 
  • Efforts to support a workforce to deliver integrated care in rural areas 
  • Changes to payment and delivery systems to help rural providers overcome integration barriers 
  • A look at the unique needs for rural integration, including those of veterans, tribal communities, and individuals with high behavioral health needs to provide more coordinated services 

Integration enables primary care providers to offer a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to patient care and, in turn, individuals in rural areas will experience improved outcomes and better overall health.

“Our goal, through all of our work, is to enhance the health and wellbeing of individuals, including those in rural America,” said Julia Harris, associate director of BPC’s Health Program. “Integrating behavioral health into primary care just makes sense. We improve health outcomes, treat the whole person, and increase access to much needed mental health and substance use treatment services for rural residents. With these recommendations, we can make significant strides in improving the lives of rural Americans.”

Read the full report.

An event on rural integration will take place on Wednesday, May 31. Register now.

Visit the BPC website for more of our behavioral health and rural work.  

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