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Health

Rural Health Project Gearing Up In Southwest Kansas

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Bryan Thompson
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Minneola Healthcare Administrator Debbie Bruner, in the Minneola Hospital emergency room .

A demonstration project to make mental health care more accessible in southwest Kansas is almost ready to begin.

It’s based on the concept that physical ailments often go hand-in-hand with mental health challenges. Debbie Bruner, who heads Minneola Healthcare, about 20 miles south of Dodge City, says providers there see it every day.

“Especially with your diabetics and your COPDs, where it’s altered their lifestyle, a lot of times you will see depression coincide with that medical condition," Bruner says.

But patients have to drive all the way to Greensburg, 41 miles away, to get mental health care. Through the demonstration project, led by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, the mental health center in Greensburg plans to provide on-site care in both Minneola and Ashland, 54 miles from Greensburg.

“So it keeps them from having to travel, if mental health services are something they would have traveled for," says Dan Shuman, medical director at Ashland Health Center. "But, you know, a lot of times they just won’t travel.”

But depression can cause patients to stop taking proper care of themselves. And with a chronic health condition, that can be dangerous. The project is aimed at proving that costly emergency room visits can be avoided if people get the mental health services they need.