Rural areas disproportionately experience mental health professional shortages. Maldistribution of behavioral health practitioners, especially in sparsely populated frontier counties, creates an additional burden. As rural health providers move toward integrated and managed care, workforce development programs are promoting and incentivizing primary care practitioners to receive training to become competent in behavioral health provision.

This project will build upon a pilot study previously conducted by the BHWRC with behavioral health organizations in Michigan. The purpose of this study is to survey a national population of organizations providing behavioral health care services to rural and underserved communities in order to assess workforce supply and needs, barriers to recruiting and retaining care providers, and level of care integration with primary care providers serving the same population.  This study will compare results of different geographic regions around the following themes:

  • Behavioral health needs of the population; services provided and accessibility to population
  • Service provider demand in behavioral health and primary care
  • Cultural/linguistic competence of the existing workforce
  • Workforce development initiatives: current and needed
  • Factors impacting worker recruitment and retention
  • Integrated care: current status, future plans, barriers and facilitators to adoption

The findings of this research will be used to develop recommendations for strengthening care delivery and workforce infrastructure nationwide, particularly in rural communities.


Characteristics of the Rural Behavioral Health Workforce: A Survey of Medicaid/Medicare Reimbursed Providers

Policy Brief
Full Report

Key Partners

National Council for Behavioral Health
Charlie Smith, PhD
SAMHSA Region 8
Shinobu Wanatabe-Galloway, PhD
Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska