Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jill Stinson

Committee Members

Julia Dodd, Stacey Williams, Ginni Blackhart


Healthcare resources are especially limited in rural regions of the US. The lack of Primary Care Providers (PCPs) and mental/behavioral health services is problematic, as there are high rates of behavioral and medical concerns within rural populations. Special populations, such as rural persons with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), are medically complex and represent a vulnerable and underserved population. Healthcare outcomes for persons with SMI are poor compared to the general population and commonly lead to premature death. Various barriers prevent this population from accessing optimal healthcare, especially in rural areas, due to negative perceptions/stigma, a lack of understanding from PCPs, and a shortage of resources in general. The current study aimed to determine the extent of mental health training that rural PCPs receive regarding patients with SMI, as well as to evaluate their perceptions, knowledge, and experiences with these patients and understand providers’ perceptions regarding rates of patients with SMI who present to primary care clinics in rural settings. The current study used a sample of rural primary care providers (N = 90) , surveyed via USPS mail. Results indicated significant differences in reported mental health training among providers from different disciplines. Greater reported mental health training significantly predicted lower levels of stigma, more correctly identified medical conditions comorbid with SMI, and greater reported comfort and confidence in treating patients with SMI. Providers reported differences in the number of patients with and without SMI seen in rural clinics. Implications for these findings are discussed.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.