Rural or frontier areas
Minnesota has many rural counties as well as seven frontier “rural” counties with population densities of less than seven persons per square mile (Aitkin, Cook, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods and Marshall). People living in these areas experience unique stressors and are more apt to experience the following challenges accessing quality mental health care:
- Shortage of mental health providers and services
- Distance to reach existing mental health clinics
- Financial barriers (inadequate health insurance coverage, lower household incomes, higher poverty rates, etc.)
- Greater possibility of social stigma for seeking mental health treatment
The Children’s Mental Health Infrastructure Grants and Collaborative Psychiatric Consultation Service are efforts designed to increase access for children and youth in rural and frontier areas to mental health services. Recent legislative changes to Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors and Community Health Workers may help to address work shortages in these areas. Also, statutory changes are allowing more flexible models to ensure access to crisis services in rural areas. In addition, the integration of primary care and mental health programs will promote access in rural areas. Telemental health is another promising practice that will help expand access to services, support and training for families and providers in more remote areas.