WEAVING A NEW SAFETY NET OF MENTAL HEALTH CARE IN RURAL AMERICA: A MODEL OF INTEGRATED PRACTICE
AbstractLife in rural America is often idealized, yet rural Americans suffer from mental illness in rates comparable to urban America and require similar types of support and services. However, millions of individuals living in rural areas go without needed mental health services. The dominant care model allows the treatment of mental illness to be delivered by non-mental health professionals with little or no education or training in psychiatric care and who have little desire to provide this type of care, resulting most often in ineffective or inappropriate treatment. Lacking access to appropriate and effective care, rural mentally ill individuals are more often symptomatic than their urban counterparts and may never find relief from the disabling symptoms of treatable mental illnesses. This article will focus on the current state of psychiatric-mental health care in the context of these realities and discuss the impact of the current trend of mental illness being treated by non-mental health professionals. The article will conclude by proposing a model of advanced practice nursing that the authors believe will increase both access and efficacy of treatment for the mentally ill living in rural America. This Integrated Model views the current system of care that completely separates location for traditional physical and mental health care as antithetical to integration and to holism and presents a new model for understanding and provided integrated health care to meet the needs of rural mentally ill individuals and families.