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Report Critical of Mental Health Care in Rural Minnesota

May 26, 2009

Lyons, NE – Rural Minnesotans are among those not being well served by the nation's mental health system. A Center for Rural Affairs' (CFRA) study released today indicates that, while mental illnesses are at least as common in rural settings as they are in urban areas, there are fewer healthcare specialists and too many gaps in insurance coverage.

Not only is coverage either unaffordable or unavailable to rural residents, says CFRA spokeswoman Kim Preston, but smalltown dwellers often are reluctant to admit they need help for substance abuse or depression.

"People don't want to admit to it - and, when they finally do, the closest practitioner that they have is generally their family doctor, who doesn't necessarily have that experience to help them deal with that issue."

The report says the rates of major depression and suicide in some rural areas are much higher than in urban ones. Preston explains mental health disorders often are stress-related in rural areas, caused or exacerbated by the economic uncertainties and pressures of farming, natural disasters and social isolation.

She adds that, with higher health insurance premiums or mounting medical debts, many families cannot afford the additional cost of mental health treatment.

"It needs to be included in all health insurance plans, just as general medical services are included. Also, there needs to be more service providers available within rural communities."

According to the report, more than 85 percent of the federally-designated "mental health professional shortage areas" are rural. Read it online atwww.cfra.org.

Jim Wishner, Public News Service - MN