Radford University helps provide mental health care to rural communities

RADFORD, Va. Access to quality health care is difficult in rural communities, but access to quality mental health care, is even more challenging.

Alyson Faires is a doctoral student in the Counseling and Psychology program at Radford University.

"It's been a super diverse experience getting to work with a lot of different people who have a really great need," Faires said.

Through the program she's worked with psychologist Dr. Joshua Bradley in providing behavioral health care to the surrounding area.

"Urban communities quite often have private practitioners that's present and in these small communities its just not present," Bradley, the director of behavioral health, explained.

Many people don't want to visit a psychologist because of the stigma that surrounds mental health.

"When you get into these rural areas, all of the sudden I know everyone's car in my community," Faires said. "And if I drive by the psychologist business and oh, I saw Aunt Jo's car... something must be really wrong."

The Tri-Area Community Health Center in Floyd is helping to change that.

"One of the biggest ways it helps with the stigma is it's one stop shop," Faires said.

Meaning you can visit a primary physician and a behavioral health psychologist without making separate appointments in separate locations. With Radford University students also providing supervised mental health care, it's free for patients seeking help.

"It's also helped because we're at 500% growth over the last few years in our behavioral health appointments. And without [the students] it would have been challenging to keep up with that," Bradley said.

He also said that statistically, 45% of people who commit suicide had seen a primary care physician in the last month. He said integrating behavioral health with primary care will get people the psychological help they need and hopefully lower the rate of suicide.