During 2016-2017, the Montana Office of Rural Health and Montana Rural Health Association
hit the road to hear what rural Montanans identify as their top health concerns. Here
is what we heard:
Access to Healthcare Services
Workforce in our smaller communities can be a challenge. From EMS personnel to primary
care and specialty services, the workforce in our rural communities is fragile. Suggestions
to improve access included: telehealth, expanded hours or weekend clinics, and visiting
Health & Wellness
Community participants indicated that they would like more opportunities to be physically
active. This could include walking trails, local pools, sidewalks and better lighting,
and indoor activities for inclement weather. Additionally, more health education and
prevention were important.
Mental & Behavioral Health
The lack of mental health services in our rural communities was acutely felt, from
dealing with depression and anxiety to the heartbreak of suicide. Communities identified
the need for more providers to serve all age groups, from youth to seniors.
Alcohol & Substance Abuse
Hand in hand with mental and behavioral health, communities recognized a need for
alcohol and substance abuse services. From opioids to alcohol and tobacco, concerns
of a culture of use and abuse was prominent.
Support for Local Services
Participants praised their local facilities and healthcare providers. They recognized
that importance of health services in their communities and the economic they have.
Participants also recognized the need to support local services to ensure stability.
Over 450 people from 32 different communities participated in 25 focus groups and
key information interviews. All participants answered the same line of questions and
all were conducted by staff from the Montana Office of Rural Health and Montana Rural