Rural Behavioral Health
About 60 million Americans live in rural areas according to the US Census Bureau. However, the percentage of the US population living in rural areas is decreasing – only 20% of the population today, down from almost 25% a decade before.
In the majority of rural counties, the population is decreasing. These trends are especially pronounced in rural counties in the Midwest, Great Plains and Northeast. For decades now, younger adults have been migrating out of the rural communities where they grew up to seek better economic opportunities. But in many counties, older adults have been leaving too. Why would seniors leave family, friends, a home and community they know and love?
Because the healthcare resources they need are not available there.
The population in rural counties skews older than in other geographies. The median age of adults in rural counties is 51, as opposed to 45 in urban areas. The population of seniors, 65+ years old, is 18% of rural counties as opposed to 13% for suburban counties. And the population is unhealthier, with higher occurrences of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Yet the healthcare resources to treat this large population in need of help are not there. There are 105 primary care physicians per 100,000 people in urban and suburban counties. In rural areas, the number is 65. And the maldistribution of resources in many medical specialties is even more uneven. Behavioral health, especially psychiatry, is one of the specialties of greatest scarcity across the US, but especially in rural areas
Psychiatric Care Shortage
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the number of psychiatrists practicing in the US was 47,000 in 1997, 38,000 in 2010 and is 28,000 currently. This heavily impacts rural areas that tend to have higher rates of opioid addiction, substance abuse and suicide, and grayer populations struggling with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The number of people suffering from dementia is expected to double every 20 years, to 75 million Americans by 2030 and 131 million by 2050, according to Forbes. It is an epidemic that is having a heavier impact on rural areas. And, tragically, even the percentage of seniors dying through drug overdose is higher in rural areas according to the American Society on Aging.
The Opportunity at the Forefront of Rural Health
Forefront Telecare was founded in 2010 to combat this problem in rural areas. With demand for behavioral health services growing rapidly and the resources to provide care decreasing, only through greater efficiency of delivery of care can the problem be addressed. We think that Telehealth is a key part of any solution. For nearly 10 years, we have been providing the highest quality of behavioral care, including psychiatry and psychology, via Telehealth to patients in rural areas across the country, from sea-to-sea, from border-to-border. And we have made it our special aim to serve the population of vulnerable seniors in these areas and to help them maintain their highest quality of life, in the communities they call home.
This is our calling.