Psychologist Discusses Rural Mental Health Woes

Article excerpt

People suffering from mental illness in rural areas such as Oklahoma are critically underserved, according to a clinical psychologist who will address the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Psychological Association.

Many Oklahomans live outside the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and are unable to obtain basic mental health services without traveling great distances, said Jerry Morris, a Missouri clinical psychologist. Morris serves on several national and international task forces charged with assessing the mental health needs of rural Americans.

"Because mental health workers choose not to move to small communities, the majority of Oklahomans must travel great distances to receive appropriate mental health services such as individual and family psychotherapy," he said. "Even when they are able to travel the great distances, they often cannot afford the services they need."

Morris is the clinical director and co-owner of five comprehensive mental health centers covering 27 counties in both rural and urban Missouri.

"Drug and alcohol related problems are not limited to larger cities," he said. "They exist everywhere in America. We must find a way to attract qualified mental health professionals to rural areas. Any attempt at national health care reform must address this shortage, and so far it hasn't."

Morris will be in Oklahoma City Saturday to address the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Psychological Association.

More than 300 physiologists are expected to attend the 44th annual meeting at the Hilton Inn Northwest today and Saturday.

Douglas Brady, a Lawton psychologist, will be installed as the incoming president of the association.

Ilene J. Philipson, a clinical psychologist from Berkeley, Calif. …