WATFORD CITY — According to the North Dakota Division of Behavioral Health, nearly 20 percent of adults in North Dakota suffer from problems associated with mental illness. The importance of prioritizing mental health and working to reduce the stigma associated with seeking professional help has received a lot of attention in recent years. In rural communities, the challenges of providing, delivering and accessing this care are even greater than in their more urban counterparts.
In Watford City, an area that has seen significant population growth and workforce recruitment and retention issues, a new healthcare facility built in 2018 has helped increase access to all services health, including mental health, especially for rural populations in western North Dakota. To fill the gaps in shortages of on-site health care providers, expanding telemedicine capabilities within this new facility was a necessary way to deliver the mental health care people deserve.
“McKenzie County Healthcare has significantly improved its services since the new building opened,” said Daniel Kelly, former CEO, McKenzie County Healthcare System. “In our old building we had access to telehealth services, but in the new building there is a specific area dedicated to these services.”
Building a new hospital is a big undertaking, especially in small, rural and remote communities, often requiring partnerships with multiple entities to secure enough funding to make the project a reality. In their case, McKenzie County Healthcare partnered with USDA Rural Development.
“I’ve said it many times and I still stand by it; this new hospital would simply not exist without rural development”, said Kelly. “It is not unique to us. Many facilities have taken advantage of rural development funding opportunities to construct new buildings or improve existing structures.
“USDA Rural Development improves the quality of life for people in our rural communities,” said Erin Oban, state director, USDA Rural Development North Dakota. “The success of our more than 50 rural development programs is ultimately measured by the well-being of the people who live, work, retire or raise their families there. We are honored to be here to help build and support rural and tribal communities and to partner to better serve North Dakota people.