VA intensive mental health case management in urban and rural areas: veteran characteristics and service delivery.Psychiatr Serv 2009; 60(7):914-21PS
The availability of mental health services in rural areas--particularly intensive services such as assertive community treatment (ACT)--has been of increasing concern and was the focus of this study. In recent decades the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed a national network of ACT-like programs called mental health intensive case management (MHICM), which have served veterans from diverse locations across the country, including urban and rural areas.
This study used rural-urban commuting area codes and national VA administrative data to compare characteristics of veterans and patterns of MHICM service delivery among veterans with mental illness living in large urban, large rural, small rural, and isolated rural communities.
Among veterans enrolled in MHICM from FY 2000 to FY 2005 (N=5,221), 84% (N=4,373) resided in urban areas, 8% (N=421) in large cities, 6% (N=291) in small rural towns, and 3% (N=136) in isolated rural areas. MHICM participants who lived in rural areas had clinical problems broadly similar to those in urban areas, although more rural veterans were unemployed, disabled, received VA disability compensation, and had a payee or fiduciary. MHICM clients in smaller or isolated rural areas received slightly less frequent and less intensive contacts and less recovery-oriented services than those in large urban locations.
These data highlight the need for intensive case management services in rural areas and note some challenges in providing them at the intensity and frequency observed in urban areas where travel distances and times are shorter.