Poor mental health is a major public health issue, affecting millions of people in their pursuit to lead optimal emotional, social, and professional lives. Depression alone can worsen other medical conditions, often doubling over-all healthcare costs, and result in a significant decrease in quality of life and overall functioning.
Rural communities and residents of those communities face significant social and health disparities as compared with urban and suburban residents. Residents of rural areas are more likely to experience health disparities. They are more likely to have chronic health conditions, less likely to receive healthcare of any kind, and less likely to receive evidence-based treatments when they do access care. Geographic maldistribution of mental health specialists from all disciplines and education levels (e.g. psychology, social work, psychiatry) creates significant access challenges. Rural areas also experience workforce shortages for primary care, where most rural mental health treatment occurs, further exacerbating access barriers. In underserved rural areas in Washington and Alaska, a severe shortage of mental health providers compounds these problems.
In an effort to ameliorate some of these disparities, the AIMS Center is partnering with Premera Blue Cross to support 23 clinics in rural Washington and Alaska to implement Collaborative Care.