Background: Northern Neck Health, Inc. (N2Health) aspires to see residents of the rural communities of Northern Neck Region, Virginia, and Arkansas with access to comprehensive and competent mental health services and knowledge. During an N2Health PCORI 2020-2021 convening project, rural community stakeholders and health system leaders called attention to the growing mental health issues and shortage of mental health resources in the region. The project found chronic shortages of mental health professionals, extensive travel times to acquire mental health services, and community stigma to be significant barriers to mental health services and knowledge.
Proposed Solution to the Problem: This project will employ a grassroots approach to build the mental health competence and capacity of rural stakeholders—patients, patient advocates and providers—in the Northern Neck region of Virginia and in Arkansas. These stakeholders will engage in a future patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) project to identify the most effective strategies to mitigate the pressing mental health issues in their communities.
- Establish a rural mental health network of 40 stakeholders across two regions (years 1-2).
- Conduct three structured information and planning meetings (year 1).
- Adapt a patient- and provider-relevant curriculum for five structured workshops that focus on mental health and findings from previous PCOR-CER studies, and subsequently deliver the structured workshops to the project stakeholders (years 1-2).
- Plan and conduct four research generating sessions to develop the elements of a CER plan (year 2).
- Develop a digital learning and communications tool to disseminate collaborative activity outcomes and PCOR/CER findings (year 1).
Projected Outcomes and Outputs:
Short-term outcomes during the project period include:
- A patient- and stakeholder-guided research agenda and plan for a CER study examining the mitigation of rural mental health issues
- A viable multi-region network of rural mental health stakeholders which will facilitate greater engagement, learning, and input of key stakeholders
Medium-term outcomes (0-2 years post-project period) include:
- A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – School of Public Health-led submission of a CER grant. This research will facilitate the comparison of multiple interventions in the field to assess the interventions’ effectiveness in rural communities.
- Multi-year CER implemented in rural Northern Neck and Arkansas to facilitate the comparison of multiple interventions in the field and assess the interventions’ effectiveness in rural communities
Long-term outcomes (3+ years post-project period) include:
- Sustainability funds from multiple funding streams to sustain a Northern Neck Rural Mental Health Village that provides services through a Federally Qualified Health Center and expands local access to mental health support.
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Forty rural stakeholders, equally representing the Northern Neck region and rural Arkansas, will participate in this project. The stakeholders will participate in 12 collaborative meetings: three virtual information meetings to build network capacity, five virtual training workshops to build network competence, and four virtual research-generating sessions to apply the capacity and competence strengthened in the previous meetings.
Project Collaborators: N2Health will collaborate with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Services Board, and health-oriented organizations and advocates in the Northern Neck Region and Arkansas.