An ongoing challenge to the provision of state of the science, empirically tested mental health interventions in rural areas is a shortage of mental health and general health care professionals. The lack of specialty mental health professionals in many rural areas is compounded by the current registered nurse shortage, which is predicted to worsen. More daunting is the lack of providers with adequate training in the provision of culturally relevant care as well as the small number of mental health providers of different minority race and ethnic populations. The shortages of these professionals may result in the absence of care, the provision of substandard care, poor consumer outcomes, the lack of culturally acceptable care and, ultimately, in negative health for the community. Using existing data we will evaluate the impact of having different amounts and mixes of professionals on public health and utilization types of outcomes. We will: 1) determine the influence of community characteristics including race, poverty and rurality on the availability of different types of mental health professionals; 2) evaluate the relationship between current and proposed numbers of professionals, the need for culturally relevant mental health care and the outcomes of mental health care; and 3) propose better methods for determining a shortage of mental health professionals (e.g. HPSA's). Products of the research will include a CD with information on the nation, states', and counties' mental health workforce. This data will be available for use in planning by policy-makers and for use in other research studies. The study will provide both improved data and improved methods to create and evaluate different definitions of Mental Health Shortage Areas. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration more than 34 federal programs depend on the shortage designation to determine eligibility or as a funding reference (HRSA, 2002). This study will provide improved accuracy to these important designations which influence eligibility for participation in federal programs, loan repayment for the National Health Service Corps and financial incentives to providers for caring for Medicare clients residing in these designated areas.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-SRV-H (01))
Program Officer
Moten, Carmen P
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University of Virginia
Schools of Nursing
United States
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Merwin, Elizabeth; Thornlow, Deirdre (2006) Methodologies used in nursing research designed to improve patient safety. Annu Rev Nurs Res 24:273-92
Merwin, Elizabeth; Snyder, Audrey; Katz, Elizabeth (2006) Differential access to quality rural healthcare: professional and policy challenges. Fam Community Health 29:186-94