Objective. Research has shown that there is less use of mental health services in rural areas even when availability, accessibility, demographic, and need factors are controlled. This study examined mental health treatment disparities by determining treatment rates across different racial/ethnic groups.
Methods. Data from the first four panels of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) were used for these analyses. The sample consisted of 36,288 respondents yielding 75,347 person-year observations. The Economic Research Service’s Rural-Urban Continuum was used as a measure of rurality.
Results. Findings show that rural residence does little to contribute to existing treatment disparities for racial/ethnic minorities living in these areas.
Conclusions. Findings suggest that characteristics of the rural environment may disadvantage all residents with respect to mental health treatment. In more populated areas where mental health services are more plentiful, complex racial and service system factors may play a greater role in evident ethnic/racial treatment disparities.