Center for Rural Mental Health Studies

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Health care is different in rural areas and urban areas. The same is true for mental health care.

Contact us

James Boulger
Program Director/Director of Alumni Affairs
University of Minnesota Medical School
University of Minnesota Foundation
218-726-7144 | jboulger@d.umn.edu

Meet our board and staff 

The Center for Rural Mental Health Studies at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus, seeks to better understand the factors that contribute to mental health and disorders in rural areas and the barriers to effective treatment. With that knowledge, we can generate better approaches to prevention, assessment, and treatment that fit in rural settings financially, culturally, and geographically.

Rather than simply creating an ‘urban’ care system in rural Minnesota, our goal is to create a system of mental health care that fits the rural setting.

Why this mission is important to rural families and clinics

More than 50 percent of visits made to family physicians are for health problems with significant social/behavioral components such as anxiety, depression, addictions, obesity, and pain. Incorporating mental and behavioral health approaches in the treatment of primary health problems results in better treatment success and, ultimately, reduces use of health care services.

The rural setting presents unique challenges to providing quality mental health care.

  • Mental health providers are in short supply
  • Existing mental health clinics are located a considerable distance from residents
  • Seeking care from a mental health provider may carry a greater stigma
  • Financial barriers exist due to inadequacies in health insurance coverage and large numbers of rural residents with incomes below the poverty level

Our service to rural communities

Bringing mental health services to rural primary health care settings is one of our objectives. In 2003, the center began providing telemental health services in one rural primary medical care clinic in northern Minnesota. We now serve Minnesota communities in Appleton, Bigfork, Cook, Ely, Floodwood, Littlefork, Moose Lake, Mora, Nett Lake, Paynesville, and Vermillion.

Center projects have included:

  • Outcome study involving the provision of mental health services provided via televideo
  • Evaluation of five telehealth projects
  • Evaluation of a maternal-mental health pilot project
  • Involvement in a project evaluating the psychobiological mechanisms of stress and smoking relapse
  • Interactive video delivery of mental health services in primary care clinics

These projects include partnerships with Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, the Human Development Center, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Northland Medical Clinic, and the Scenic Rivers Health Care Center.

Learn more about the center