Today is National Rural Health Day. Rural communities in the United States face unique challenges that are different from those in more urban areas. And many LDS members live in rural areas.
I had the opportunity to interview Nisha Patel, the director of the community based division in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) for the Mormon Mental Health Podcast I host. In her role, Nisha provides oversight, leadership and management to programmatic, operational and fiscal activities as related to improving and increasing healthcare access in rural communities.
We were able to discuss some of the challenges rural communities face from a mental health perspective. Some of these include higher numbers of poor mental health, obesity & chronic illness, shortage of mental health providers, stigmas associated with treatment, long distances to attain services, prescription drug dependence, etc. Nisha shares several statistics that are relevant to communities who have large numbers of LDS members. We also discussed some of the innovative solutions that are currently available such as: applying for available grants, developing community programs, use of tele-mental health resources, and taking advantage of specified trainings. This podcast includes a lot of relevant information as to how LDS members may be affected by rural community issues and how ecclesiastical & auxiliary leaders and mental health providers who work with LDS members can tap into resources that can address the needs of Mormons. One way that wards and stakes can take a more proactive approach is partnering with local resources to help members become insured and access care through the Affordable Care Act – with a focus on preventative care. Depending on the area, ward councils and budgets are often overwhelmed and even ill-equipped with the chronic or mental health needs they encounter. I hope this podcast can serve as a resource for local leadership to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions that address ward problems without causing burnout for those who are serving in various callings.
Rural Assistance Center (includes mental health evidence base toolkit and other resources)
State Offices of Rural Health: There is one SORH per state. They are the focal point for rural areas and are a wealth for resources and can provide guidance on funding opportunities.
ACA Help: Find Local Help
Natasha Helfer Parker can be contacted at natashaparker.org.