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Community health centers are a vital part of the primary and behavioral health care systems in rural areas. We compared behavioral health care staffing and services in rural and urban centers. In the period 2013-17 the overall staff-to-patient ratio in behavioral health rose by 66 percent in rural centers, faster than growth in urban centers (49 percent). Growth in both settings was mostly driven by clinical social workers and other licensed mental health providers; staffing by psychiatrists and psychologists changed only slightly. In rural centers the average adjusted increase in annual visits per additional behavioral health staff member was 411 for substance use disorders, slightly higher than at urban centers. Additional annual visits per additional staff member in rural centers were 539 for depression, 466 for anxiety, and 300 for other mental disorders, similar to the numbers in urban centers. Behavioral health staff currently participating in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) contributed more to visits for depression and anxiety in rural centers, compared to both their urban counterparts and non-NHSC staff in rural centers. Enhancing behavioral health staffing in rural community health centers could help reduce the urban-rural gap in the availability of behavioral health services, but still more could be done.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Health affairs (Project Hope)
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Facilities which administer the delivery of health care services to people living in a community or neighborhood.
Health services, public or private, in rural areas. The services include the promotion of health and the delivery of health care.
The status of health in rural populations.
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