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Posttraumatic stress disorder in rural primary care: improving care for mental health following bioterrorism

Tsao JC, Dobalian A, Wiens BA, Gylys JA, Evans GD. Posttraumatic stress disorder in rural primary care: improving care for mental health following bioterrorism. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association. 2006 Jan 1; 22(1):78-82.

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CONTEXT: Recent bioterrorism attacks have highlighted the critical need for health care organizations to prepare for future threats. Yet, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health needs of rural communities in the wake of such events. A critical aspect of bioterrorism is emphasis on generating fear and uncertainty, thereby contributing to increased needs for mental health care, particularly for posttraumatic stress disorder, which has been estimated to occur in 28% of terrorism survivors. PURPOSE: Prior experience with natural disasters suggests that first responders typically focus on immediate medical trauma or injury, leaving rural communities to struggle with the burden of unmet mental health needs both in the immediate aftermath and over the longer term. The purpose of the present article is to draw attention to the greater need to educate rural primary care providers who will be the frontline providers of mental health services following bioterrorism, given the limited availability of tertiary mental health care in rural communities. METHODS: We reviewed the literature related to bioterrorism events and mental health with an emphasis on rural communities. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS: Public health agencies should work with rural primary care providers and mental health professionals to develop educational interventions focused on posttraumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders, as well as algorithms for assessment, referral, and treatment of post-event psychological disorders and somatic complaints to ensure the availability, continuity, and delivery of quality mental health care for rural residents following bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.

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