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Rural Mental Health Solutions Roundtable

About the Roundtable

The Rural Mental HealthSolutions Roundtable (February 8, 2024) was the third Solutions Roundtable hosted by the WeCAN Peer Learning Network. Across our three states—Idaho, Montana and Wyoming—small towns and rural communities wrestle with a similar basket of mental health issues. Roundtable registrations from 35 other states demonstrate that these concerns resonate in rural areas across the country.

And what a complex basket of issues it can be. Many rural communities struggle with access to primary health care, including mental health care. Rural rates of suicide and depression are disproportionately high. Farmers are especially at risk. Most rural counties do not have psychiatric health care providers. Uneven broadband access can make tapping remote resources difficult. We care deeply about our neighbors, but also have an independent mindset and can have trouble asking for help — or knowing what to say or do when we are asked.

Like the housing and workforce solutions roundtables that came before it, the Rural Mental Health Solutions Roundtable was aptly named, with a focus on what's working in small towns and rural communities. We heard from two keynote speakers, heard firsthand stories from communities across our three states, and discussed solutions and approaches with fellow participants. We walked away with inspiration, new connections and ready-to-implement ideas.

Cover of the Rural Mental Health Solutions Resource Guide
WeCAN Mental Health Solutions Roundtable Video Recording

(click to play)

Event Recording & Slide Presentations

Below, you'll find descriptions of the keynote speaker and solution story presenters, along with timestamps so you can navigate directly to the parts of the event you most want to see.

Chuck Strand's keynote presentation 17:50  Slide presentation here

Chuck is the Executive Director of Rural Minds, a nonprofit dedicated serving as and informed voice for mental health in rural America, and providing mental health information and resources. Chuck spoke about why mental health is a unique challenge in rural areas; about the new Rural Mental Health Resilience program, a collaboration of Rural Minds and the National Grange; and other resources available through Rural Minds.

Kellie Kubena's keynote presentation 33:30  Slide presentation here

Kellie Kubena is the USDA Rural Health Liaison, working across USDA and located in the USDA Rural Development Innovation Center.  Kellie talked about making connections between mental health and health care more broadly, and how rural communities can creatively tap USDA and other federal resources to support their work on mental health issues.

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Joel Ricks, Josh Tieken and Lex Godfrey, Rigby, Idaho, 57:07

Joel (Future Farmers of America), Josh (The Falls Insurance Center) and Lex (Rigby High School) talked about a community-driven effort to build a custom-designed mobile pizza oven out of a Word War II buoy. Their aim is to foster community gatherings and deepen connections among area residents, including far-flung farmers.


Brenda Richey, Polson, Montana, 1:08.30  Slide presentation here

Brenda (Montana State University - Flathead Reservation Tribal Extension Program) talked about a 4-H youth mentoring program that pairs high school students with K-4th grade students. The program helps build a stronger sense of belonging and support within local school systems and the broader community.

Lance Hansen and David Callister, Moscow, Idaho, 1:19:08 Slide presentation here

Lance and David (University of Idaho Extension) talked about what farm stress researchers are learning in their work with 17 rural Idaho communities, and how some of these places are tackling their mental health challenges.

Paige Olsen, Wallace, Idaho, 1:32:55 Slide presentation here

Paige (Silver Valley CARES) talked about a community-created website and mental health resource center, and some unexpected sources of support including how the group is using Americorps funding to support locals working to build the new organization. 

Melissa Cook, Big Horn County, Wyoming, 1:41:32 Slide presentation here

Melissa (University of Wyoming Extension) talked about a mental health and fitness fair organized by a community group focused on economic development — and how that effort spawned more mental fitness events in the county and a "yellow feather" awareness-building campaign.

Danielle Scott, Lapwai, Idaho, 1:51:00 Slide presentation here

Danielle (University of Idaho Extension, Nez Perce Reservation) talked about multigenerational programs that draw on and strengthen cultural connections to build resilience. Woven from generations of Nez Perce traditions, culture is also prevention.

Special thanks to those who supported breakout rooms as resource persons and facilitators.

Alison Brennan (Montana State University Extension) • Shea Ward (NAMI Wyoming • David Callister • Elizabeth Sloan (University of Idaho) • Brenda Richey • Marci Miller (Rural Development Initiatives) • Chuck Strand • Paige Olsen • Lance Hansen • Juliet Daniels (University of Wyoming Extension) • Kellie Kubena • Tamara Telles (US Department of Agriculture • Danielle Scott • Lorie Higgins (University of Idaho Extension)

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