Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Northern New York Rural Behavioral Health Institute, dba North Country Behavioral Healthcare Network

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

January 2015

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

December 2008–June 2014

National data show that 33% of older Americans in rural areas suffer from depression, anxiety, or both and approximately 12% report alcohol misuse.

Rural elders have much lower rates of using health and mental health service than older adults elsewhere. Established in 1997, the North Country Behavioral Healthcare Network (NCBHN) comprises 20 nonprofit community-based behavioral health care providers delivering services in six rural counties in the northernmost reaches of New York State. In 2008, the New York Health Foundation awarded NCBHN a grant to support the HealthNet: Mental Health Services for North Country Elders project to serve older residents in the sparsely populated central North Country area of New York State, including the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Engaged representation from community-based agencies to form the stakeholders group, which worked to provide valuable ideas to better reach seniors;
  • Trained key professional staff members of nonmental health provider agencies to recognize and understand geriatric mental health and substance use issues and to perform standardized mental health screenings;
  • Scheduled regular community screenings and information tables at HealthNet partner community sites that serve older people in the project area; andMade more than 640 site visits to community-based agencies, hospitals, and physician practices;
  • Recorded the process of infrastructure change, including the impact of consumer and cultural interest group involvement; and
  • Recorded an increase in use of mental health services by older adults during the project period as compared to a year before the project began.

Because of time constraints, health professionals indicated that some of the skills learned were underused. Additionally, out of the 29 screened participants, only 4 completed both treatment and a post-treatment screening to see if there had been improvement. It also proved challenging to engage the participation of health providers, who did not welcome project staff members in to their practice sites and gave few referrals.