Behavioral Health Treatment & Prevention

"So many people say we have a problem with mental health and substance use in our area. It’s time to do something about it."

Heather Perry
Behavioral Health Project Director, ARHP

Treatment & Prevention

"So many people say we have a problem with mental health and substance use in our area. It’s time to do something about it."

Heather Perry
Behavioral Health Project Director, ARHP

Mental Health & Substance Use Treatment & Prevention

In south Arkansas, the mental health and substance use crisis is compounded by lack of providers and poor infrastructure that simply cannot meet the demands of individuals in crisis. In the past year, ARHP has taken deliberate steps to move the needle forward on advocacy, collaboration, provider education, and service availability to help treat and prevent these conditions.


  • The creation of the first regional Behavioral Health Task Force, bringing together community members and professionals to focus on improving infrastructure and service delivery related to mental health and substance use concerns. The task force currently has 35 active members.
  • The regional task force identified the need for focused, region-wide planning efforts related to opioid use prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. In response, the ARHP submitted and was awarded a federal planning grant to establish the first regional opioid planning group in southeast Arkansas. The Rural Community Opioid Response-Planning (RCORP) grant brings together regional and state partners to develop comprehensive plans related to expanding substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery services in the area by May 2020.
  • The Arkansas Delta Rural Health Opioid Project video created by the organization went viral throughout the state, receiving over 2,000 hits since its posting in late August 2018. The video was shown by nursing and medical schools across the state and highlighted by HRSA at a national grantee meeting. As a result, the number of MAT providers in the region grew from 1 to 4 over the past year. The video is also spurring policy change and new collaborative efforts with partners at a regional, state, and national level.
  • New mental health crisis assessment services are now available via telehealth at 8 partner hospitals and 5 clinics. A licensed professional then provides the patient with a warm hand-off to additional mental health services on an as needed basis.


Lack of Mental Health Professionals
  • Due to the lack of access to mental health professionals, there is a greater need for integrated behavioral health services at the primary care level. This better equips healthcare providers within the primary care setting to address behavioral health concerns, often before they escalate to crisis situations needing hospitalization.
  • There is a need to train and equip community members, lay persons, and professionals in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental distress and illness and how to refer to needed services. ARHP first launched Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in the service area in late 2018.
Lack of Inpatient Behavioral Health Facilities
  • In a service area of 22 counties (nearly ⅓ of the state), there are only 3 centers that offer inpatient detox for substance use. There is only 1 inpatient facility treating crisis mental health and/or serious mental illness concerns. These facilities are often at capacity and have wait times of over a week or more.
Lack of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Options for Opioid Use Disorder:
  • Arkansas’ opioid prescription rate is nearly double the national average according to data released by the Arkansas Department of Health.
  • Arkansas prescribes the lowest rate of buprenorphine in the nation to treat opioid addiction: five prescriptions per every 1,000 Medicaid users (Urban Institute, 2019).

Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an 8-hour course that teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives laypersons the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. To date, ARHP has trained 112 individuals (68 adults, 45 youth) across South Arkansas region in Mental Health First Aid.

Adult MHFA Participants Trained
Youth MHFA Participants Trained

"Mental Health First Aid is the tool that can provide the necessary education to promote positive change in our communities. It has been useful to me and my staff to help recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance abuse issues to more effectively treat our patients."

- Amy Harper, LCSW, IOP Director, Drew Memorial Health System
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Quick Facts

Although mental and behavioral health have long been a major concern across the nation, rural communities are particularly vulnerable due to extremely limited access to mental health professionals and treatment.


Poor Mental Health Days
Average number of mentally unhealthy days reported in past 30 days


Patients to Providers
Ratio of population to mental health providers in the ARHP service area.


Inpatient Mental Health Facility
For treating crisis mental health and/or serious mental illness concerns.

Confronting the Mental Health & Substance Use Crisis in Rural Arkansas

ARHP helps expand locally-available screening, education, outreach, case management and counseling services for those at-risk or diagnosed with mental health & substance use issues. We bring South Arkansas healthcare organizations, mental and behavioral health organizations, the legal system, and social service organizations together to begin to address these issues we so desperately need to tackle.

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