Perspectives of Behavioral Health Clinicians in a Rural Integrated Primary Care/Mental Health Program.

Abstract

PURPOSE This study compares the perspectives of rural and urban mental health clinicians working in various Washington State Community Health Centers that have implemented an integrated primary care/mental health program. METHODS We conducted a Web-based survey of mental health clinicians (n = 71) who work in an integrated primary care/mental health program ("the program") in 1 of 150 safety net primary care clinics in Washington State. Most participating clinics are Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics. Pooled survey results from clinicians working in rural settings were compared to those working in urban settings. Semistructured interviews were conducted with a subset (n = 32) of survey respondents. Comments made during these interviews were analyzed for themes. FINDINGS In the survey phase, both rural and urban clinicians generally agreed that the program benefitted their patients. Rural respondents were particularly appreciative of the flexibility that the program offered when planning care. Not surprisingly, social service limitations (such as housing or transportation services) were more often mentioned as program limitations. Rural clinicians were more likely to note a lack of awareness of program resources among other medical providers on the team. CONCLUSIONS Clinicians working in rural primary care clinics value the availability and flexibility of an integrated primary care/mental health program as an option for providing mental health care for their patients. Clinicians working in rural settings could benefit from additional training and program implementation support to best meet the needs of their patients.

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