A new program at the University of Missouri is seeking to boost mental health care in rural areas. The school’s received a $700,000 federal grant to train psychologists for work in parts of the state where specialized care’s not offered.
Dr. Laura Schopp with the MU Health System says the goal is to provide patients with mental therapy in addition to the physical health treatment they’re getting. “We know it’s not enough, for example, when a patient comes into the doctor’s office, the doctor says ‘You should really quit smoking’. A few patients do, but most aren’t able to do it just on that recommendation alone. So we know we have to come in and deliver support services and help that patient get motivated, stay motivated and have the skills they need to manage their chronic health conditions.”
Schopp contends people in less populated communities are more likely than their urban counterparts to suffer from a number of illnesses. “Our biggest issues are depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and developmental disorders like autism.”
Schopp says people in less populated communities have very little access to specialized care. “We do know, both anecdotally and from previous studies, if you live in a rural area and you need high end, specialized care, it’s very, very difficult.”
Under the program, psychology students who are just short of a doctorate degree will be trained to work alongside primary care doctors. Schopp says the funding will support 5 interns per year to be sent out to under-served communities in the state. She says more than half of Missourians who have a mental health problem do not receive treatment.