Lost in the Rush to National Reform: Recommendations to Improve Impact on Behavioral Health Providers in Rural Areas
- Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 23, Number 2, May 2012
- pp. 842-856
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As the United States embarks on the most ambitious national health reform since the 1960s, this article highlights the challenges faced by behavioral health agencies, providers, and clients in rural areas and presents recommendations to improve access to and quality of services. Lessons learned from five years of research on a major systems-change initiative in New Mexico illuminate potential problem areas for rural agencies under national health reform, including insufficient financial resources, shortages of trained staff, particularly clinicians with advanced credentials, and delays in adopting the latest information technology. We recommend that rural states: (1) undertake careful planning for smooth transitions; (2) provide financial resources and technical assistance to expand rural safety-net services and capacity; (3) modify the health home model for the rural context; and (4) engage in ongoing evaluation, which can help ensure the early identification and rectification of unanticipated implementation issues.