In a blog post for the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Daniel Pollack and Marisa Markowitz discuss the struggle rural Americans undertake when trying to get mental health care in their communities. Through this, we see the lack of social workers in rural America, an absence that deeply affects rural people seeking health care.

From the post: “Most clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists work in urban areas. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 60 percent of rural Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. Metropolitan residents have access to 80 percent of working social workers and 90 percent of psychologists and psychiatrists. Meanwhile, 65 percent of mental health services in rural areas are provided by primary health care providers, and the mental health crisis responder is frequently a law enforcement officer. These numbers suggest that quality mental health care is a gamble for rural Americans.

According to the National Center for State Courts, formerly incarcerated people in rural areas find it more difficult to successfully reenter their communities because there aren’t enough jobs, places to live, public transportation, and reentry programs. In addition, public housing authorities can legally shun  potential tenants with criminal convictions, despite efforts from the Department of Urban Housing to curtail such measures. Federal, state, and city-funded programs house social workers who interface with courts, hospitals, nonprofits, vocational programs, and other agencies to support self-sufficiency, but there is scant research on quality programs that help formerly incarcerated persons in rural areas. Naturally, this leads to speculation about a potential social service gap for formerly incarcerated individuals returning to rural communities.”

With rural social workers under constant pressure, the dearth of available opportunities hurts the profession as well as the rural people they are trying to help.

To read the rest of the post on NRHA, click here.