Maryland’s 2018 Rural Health Plan developed by the Maryland Rural Health Association (MRHA) www.mdruralhealth.org points out that in terms of access to health care, rural areas in the State are scattered with Medically Underserved Areas and Populations (MUA/P and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).
In Maryland, county health departments play a vital role in helping rural communities. However, many people feel using the health department is something shameful. There is also resistance to going for behavioral health treatments and are hesitant to seek treatment. In addition limited staff and hours, cultural beliefs about healthcare can include fear of deportation plus poor advertisements for healthcare services play a part as possible barriers.
Providers know the specific needs of people in their communities and have discussed the need for:
- Community Health Centers—Providers want to see a community health centers that include a “no wrong door” policy to better coordinate care. This health center would serve as a one stop shop for services
- Telehealth Services and Mobile Health Units—Providers want to see more of these services added to already existing similar services in the hope that healthcare professionals could provide more remote care to patients
- Database of Community Resources—The database would allow consumers to know which services are already available in the community and the requirements for the use of the services
MRHA was one of the members of the “Rural Health Care Delivery Workgroup” that was established by Senate Bill 707 in 2016 to study the challenges facing the health system service the five Mid-Shore counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
One key work group recommendation would establish a Mid-Shore coalition which would bring together community residents and leaders from healthcare, emergency medical services, public health, behavioral health, oral health, social services, transportation, education, business, and law enforcement, who could work together on the most pressing needs.
Secondly, the work group suggests that a rural community health demonstration program should be created to enable clinicians to test new delivery models before scaling them to other rural communities in Maryland and perhaps to urban communities. One example would be to create “Patient-Centered Health Neighborhoods” to serve as a coordinated one stop shop for diverse health needs.
In other news in the state, Frostburg State University (FSU) a member of MRHA, has just established their new “Rural Nurse Practitioner (NP) Program”. The program will offer two concentrations consisting of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and the Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program.
The Rural NP Program is the only program that is going to explicitly target a specific student demographic which is expected to be experienced registered nurses who already live and work in rural and medically under-served areas.
For more information on the Frostburg Rural Nurse Practitioner Program, email Kelly M. Rock, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.