The Special Challenges Faced by Rural Communities
While access to health care continues to be a topic of global discussion, accessibility to specific treatment needs continues to be a challenge. In 2017, more than 100 million people in the United States lived in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals necessary to serve their populations, according to a Snapshot of Mental Illness infographic created by the online MSW program with University of Southern California.
With almost one in five adults in the U.S. living with a mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Americans that live in rural communities face consistent obstacles accessing treatment for issues such as addiction due to poverty and the distance from their homes to treatment centers.
According to an a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “rural areas continue to be disproportionately disadvantaged with a lack of basic services and underutilization of available services when compared to urban contexts.”
What Can Rural Communities Do?
Recovery at treatment centers may not always be feasible, but taking the necessary steps for treatment should always be a priority. What steps can rural Americans take to ensure they have access to treatment and stick to a recovery plan regardless of their location?
Cultivate a supportive community.
Surrounding the patient with friends, family, and counselors they can reach out to for emotional support is key. The patient can share goals and struggles with their community so they can be held accountable. This sense of community ensures each patient receives the love and support needed.
During a recovery plan, it is critical to frequently reach out to the community to ensure each patient stays on track and remains motivated. Communicating often during a recovery plan can help patients stay encouraged.
Track goals and progress in writing.
Updating a journal or planner every day to see visible progress while on a recovery plan can be both therapeutic and helpful for a patient.
Explore online recovery options.
From computer-based training to self-management, there are many online recovery programs to help patients stay motivated, deal with temptation, and manage emotions.
It’s important to note lapses may occur in the early months of treatment, but the ultimate goal is to avoid full relapses. A prevention strategy is to conduct an early assessment of specific relapse triggers, and educate clients’ family members about addiction and the recovery process. Retention in these types of treatments is an obstacle but also a priority that counselors try to mend. A few strategies to improve retention, according to NIH, are increasing the frequency of contact during early treatment, forming a working relationship with your client, and never giving up.