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Responding to Needs: Collaborations for Broad Impact



By Thomasine Heitkamp, LCSW
PI and Co-Director of the Mountain Plains ATTC and MHTTC

The Mountain Plains ATTC collaborated with the Mountain Plains MHTTC to create a shared product entitled Depression, Alcohol and Farm Stress: Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders in Rural America, [Co-occurring Disorders] April 2020 (M. Shogren, R. Landwehr, D. Terry, A. Moore and A. McLean). This blog discusses the rationale for product development, a brief description of the product, end-user comments, and collaborations with organizations, localities, and states. The topic of co-occurring disorders (substance use and mental health concerns) was identified as a significant training and technical assistance (TA) need in recent formal assessments conducted by the Region 8 ATTC and MHTTC shown below.

In response to this identified need, Region 8 offered training/TA activities and developed products related to treating co-occurring disorders. Given the rural and frontier nature of Region 8, the issue of treating co-occurring disorders requires an examination of this topic in the context of farming families and their communities. 

The Co-occurring Disorders product was produced to assist Region 8 behavioral health providers to improve and enhance their skills in treating co-occurring disorders. Users of this product are provided a fictitious case scenario that walks them through applications regarding use of screening tools (AUDIT-C, PHQ-2, PHQ-9, Health Leads, SIREN) to determine the needs of a farmer who is ultimately diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder and depression. The Co-occurring Disorders product also underscores the importance of family supports, referral to treatment, provider flexibility, and addressing compassion fatigue. The 66-page product includes evidence-based resources (81 references and 26 resources) and colorful photos to provide a narrative regarding screening and intervention related to co-occurring disorders.

“It was easy to understand, and one of the parts that I really liked was that we followed John through the entire process, from the initial start to the emergency room. I liked that because it was easy to see how it would work into a practice; the storyline and how it is incorporated into patient care and practice.”

“It reminds me that as a primary care provider, you might get a little numb to all the barriers that people are facing.”

Following publication and dissemination of the Co-occurring Disorders product, the Mountain Plains ATTC assessed end-user perceptions, including feedback by advanced practice nurses and APRN students who suggested incorporating this document into health career curricula, especially to prepare primary care providers. All feedback was positive, with a note regarding the informative nature of the product and the practical approach to assisting providers in expanding their capacity to address co-occurring disorders among farmers and rural residents. In less than three months, this product has served as the backdrop for additional training/TA activities provided by both the Region 8 ATTC and MHTTC. This includes:

  • Collaboration with Great Lakes MHTTC and the American Psychological Association to offer two trainings - (1) Approaching and Treating Co-Occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders in Farming and Rural Communities and (2) Co-Occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders in Farming and Rural Communities: Assessment, Ethics, and Preventing Compassion Fatigue;
  • Co-authoring a companion piece in June 2020 with Mountain Plains MHTTC and Mid-America ATTC and MHTTC, entitled Farm Stress Facts, Impact of Covid-19, Resources, and Training Needs of Mental Health Care Providers (S. Schroeder, T. Heitkamp, B. Clark, E. Holiday, A. Breigenzer, & S. Johnson);
  • A Mountain Plains ATTC Enhanced Professional Learning series that establishes a learning community to expand treatment capacities on co-occurring disorders.

The Co-occurring Disorders product has been accessed and marketed by multiple organizations, including the RHI hub, the National Rural Health Association, and the National Organization for State Offices of Rural Health, which provided a review in their monthly newsletters. Representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lead offices in the Region 8 states (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY) have received the product and are critical collaborators in working on the topic of addressing farm stress through their numerous office locations. USDA has participated in past trainings and is more readily accessing TTC resources, given this collaboration. This effort reflected meaningful and ongoing collaborations among the TTCs and other behavioral health partners to increase awareness and enhance expertise on how co-occurring disorders are addressed in rural areas.

Thomasine Heitkamp, LCSW, is the PI and Co-Director of the Mountain Plains ATTC and MHTTC. She is a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor at the University of North Dakota with more than 30 years of experience in behavioral health workforce development.

Published:
09/17/2020
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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.

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