Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

Transportation for Rural Mental Health Programs

Lack of reliable transportation can limit access to mental healthcare. Rural residents who face transportation barriers, including limited public transportation or long travel distances, may be more likely to delay or cancel mental health appointments. This can lead to poorer mental health outcomes. It can also result in rural residents being socially isolated, which is a risk factor for negative mental health outcomes.

In tight-knit rural communities, individuals may not want to be seen parking their personal vehicle in front of the mental health clinic due to the stigma associated with seeking mental health services. In addition, people who are experiencing anxiety or depression may find transportation overwhelming, and therefore may avoid public transportation or driving their own vehicle altogether.

Strategies rural mental health programs may consider for addressing transportation barriers include:

  • Encouraging rides from a patient's informal network
  • Facilitating ridesharing with other community members
  • Working with local community-based or faith-based organizations to offer transportation
  • Educating patients and community members about available transportation services and resources in their communities

For more information on evidence-based strategies for improving access to mental healthcare, including bringing services to the patient with mobile mental health units or telehealth, see Module 2: Models to Improve Access to Care for Mental Health.

To learn more about rural transportation considerations, see our Rural Transportation Toolkit and our Transportation to Support Rural Healthcare topic guide.

Resources to Learn More

Perceived Transportation Barriers Moderate the Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Household Transportation Use: A Pilot Study
Examines how transportation barriers could affect the relationship between household transportation use and depressive symptoms among rural residents in the southeastern United States. Abstract and selected text available.
Author(s): Lee, L. H., Yoon, Y. J., Kim, D., et al.
Citation: Journal of Transport & Health, 33, 101713
Date: 11/2023