Characteristics and Service Use of Seriously Mentally Ill Persons Living in Rural Areas

Published in: Psychiatric Services, v. 47, no. 1, Jan. 1996, p. 57-61

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1996

by Greer Sullivan, Catherine A. Jackson, Karen Spritzer

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OBJECTIVE: Data from a cross-sectional survey of 210 current or former inpatients at Mississippi State Hospital and 197 informants, usually patients' family members, were used to compare the demographic, clinical, and service use characteristics of patients living in rural areas with those of patients living in nonrural areas. METHODS: All subjects completed structured face-to-face interviews. Information on recent use of community mental health center (CMHC) services was obtained from CMHC records. Characteristics of rural patients (N = 107) and nonrural patients (N = 103) were compared using chi square and t tests. RESULTS: Rural patients were less likely to have completed high school and more likely to be living with family members. Although rural and nonrural subjects were clinically similar, rural subjects were less likely to have received certain community mental health services such as case management and day treatment and were more likely to have used physical health services and to have been involved with the criminal justice system. CONCLUSIONS: Differences between rural and nonrural patients in patterns of service use are most likely a reflection of less availability or accessibility of mental health services in rural areas, resulting in spillover into physical health and criminal justice sectors. Rural community mental health centers need to formally incorporate families, local medical providers, and law enforcement officials into their network of care.

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