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Rural Health Information Hub

Sustainability Planning for Rural Mental Health Programs

Sustainability planning is important to a program's long-term success. Sustainability planning should occur throughout a program's lifespan, from creating an initial sustainability plan to disseminating evaluation findings to a variety of audiences, including funders.

Particularly in rural communities, the population size may not be sufficient to meet the funding needs or reimbursement requirements of rural mental health programs. Therefore, it is critical to diversify funding sources and consider additional strategies that support program sustainability.

Factors to consider when planning for the sustainability of rural mental health programs include:

  • Organizational capacity
  • Staff and volunteer retention
  • Community and program partnerships
  • Political environment
  • Community engagement
  • Mental health stigma
  • Evaluating program impact
  • Reimbursement for mental health services
  • Funding sources and stability

Additional tips and information on sustainability planning can be found in our Rural Community Health Toolkit and Rural Suicide Prevention Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Early Action Planning for Sustainability of School-Based Mental Health Programs
Outlines five key steps for school-based mental health programs when planning for long-term sustainability.
Organization(s): National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments
Date: 4/2021

Factors Affecting the Sustainability of Community Mental Health Assets: A Systematic Review
Discusses findings from a literature review on mental health issues, sustainability, and service provision to determine barriers and facilitators affecting sustainability of community mental health programs.
Author(s): Moore, A., Bertotti, M., Hanafiah, A., & Hayes, D.
Citation: Health & Social Care in the Community, 30(6), e3369–e3383
Date: 11/2022

Planning for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Program Sustainability: Lessons from State Medicaid Leaders
Discusses sustainability planning considerations for new programs started with time-limited federal funding. Based on interviews of state Medicaid leaders participating in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model.
Author(s): Kelly, L. & Brykman, K.
Organization(s): Center for Health Care Strategies, National Council for Mental Wellbeing
Date: 3/2023