Creating mobile mental health clinics to improve access for rural youth

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Access to mental health care for youth living in rural areas presents several challenges. Jennifer Marr, DNP, APRN, CNP, PNP-C, explains how a mobile mental health clinic could expand care.

Jennifer Marr, DNP, APRN, CNP, PNP-C, assistant professor, Minnesota State University Mankato, joined Contemporary Pediatrics at the 2024 National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) National Conference on Pediatric Health Care, to discuss her session, "Improving Access to Mental Health Care in Rural Youth."

Mental health concerns for pediatric patients and adolescents continue to be at the forefront of health care in this population, with increasing concerns for access to care.

"We know that mental health has gotten to an epidemic level in our pediatric population," said Marr. "So how can we look at opportunities or ways when we know levels were there prior to COVID-19, [and that] COVID-19 really exacerbated a lot of the concerns?"

Marr added there are several aspects of social determinants of health in rural youth, including cultural language barriers, health literacy, and stigma that can be associated with mental health care.

"On top of that, the other aspect of rural youth is access to services," said Marr. "We're looking at waitlists that can be 3 to 6 to 9 months in length to even get access to a mental health care provider for diagnosis or for ongoing treatment."

The session reviewed a way that could, which with the collaboration of rural public school systems, improve access to services.

"A mobile mental health clinic was a way for us to look at really improving that access and doing it in a place where [the children are] automatically there to begin with," added Marr.

"It was very surprising to see that the mobile mental health clinic, the actual literature, the only one we found any publishing on was something from a group in Haiti," said Marr, who added the innovative potential has inspired her to raise awareness as a way to increase mental health access for rural youth.

Contemporary Pediatrics will continue to have coverage of several posters, presentations, and video interviews with experts as the National Conference goes on. Visit contemporarypediatrics.com each day for updates and the latest from the conference in Denver, Colorado.

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