Plain Language Summary – Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Rural Access to Care

People who have both a mental health diagnosis and a developmental disability diagnosis at the
same time can have difficulty getting good services. It is often easier for a person who only has one of these diagnoses at a time to find good services. This is because there are gaps in spotting and treating mental health concerns for people that also have a developmental disability. This is a problem in many places but is more common in rural areas. Rural areas are places people live that are outside of large cities. There are less people in rural areas and they are more spread out than people who live in cities. Because there are less people in rural areas, there are often fewer services. Less services to choose from makes it even harder for people who have both a disability and a mental health concern to get the help they need.

It is also harder to access services in rural areas, because there are limited choices for transportation.  People do not always know what services there are in rural areas or how to find out about them. Another challenge of finding and using services is not understanding health information. And it can be difficult to find a doctor in a rural area that is covered by the person’s insurance.

A possible solution to rural areas having less health options is Telehealth. Telehealth lets people get services from medical doctors and mental health counselors over the phone or internet. More and more people who live in rural areas are starting to use Telehealth to get the services they need without having to drive long distances to a bigger city.  However, not everyone in a rural area has good phone connections or access to the internet.

Some suggestions to improve access to good care for people in rural areas that have a developmental disability and mental health concern include:

  • Pushing to improve phone reception and internet access in rural areas to increase
    access to Telehealth services
  • Increase training for medical professionals about how to best serve people with mental
    health concerns and developmental disabilities
  • Create easier to find, online resources for people with a mental health concern and
    developmental disability

Full Fact Sheet: Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Rural Access to Care

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