Dr. Shawnda Schroeder Presents at Virtual Mental Health Symposium

Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center
Publication Date: Oct 20, 2020

Dr. Shawnda Schroeder Presents at Virtual Mental Health Symposium

October 21, 2020 – Dr. Shawnda Schroeder, Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Rural Health, was a key speaker at the recent “Approaching Mental Health in America – Adapting Treatment and Identifying Opportunities” symposium, hosted by Public Policy Exchange. Schroeder addressed barriers to treatment, stigma, and the changing landscape of mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Accessibility, availability, and acceptability are what Dr. Schroeder describes as the three barriers to mental health treatment. “Access to providers decreased at the onset of the pandemic as offices closed and transitions to remote work were made. At the same time, demand for mental health services was increasing, causing a crisis in availability,” Schroeder explained. “People who relied on public transportation may have reduced access or willingness to use those services due to the pandemic.”


The stigma associated with mental health treatment can deter individuals from seeking help, but the economic downturn and increased social isolation caused by the pandemic has spotlighted the need for mental health solutions. This dramatic shift in attention toward mental health could potentially increase the acceptability of seeking care. The shift also creates a window of opportunity for new policies. The Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center is one success story that policymakers can look to for inspiration during this time of need for mental health care providers and services. “The Mountain Plains MHTTC had already been providing training and resources to anyone who serves persons with mental illness before the pandemic. We recognize that more than just licensed providers provide mental health care. We help school-teachers, agricultural extension offices, clergy, or anyone else interested gain practical skills to enhance the mental health of their communities,” said Schroeder.


Schroeder has also been instrumental in the development of the Behavioral Health Bridge (BHB), a partnership between Sanford and the University of North Dakota. The purpose of the BHB is to provide information on common behavioral health conditions and launch virtual behavioral health treatments to address the current needs of people in North Dakota. By the end of the year, the BHB will have online modules that users can complete to screen for risk factors of alcohol use disorder, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and illicit drug use. Schroeder affirmed, “These are reputable and validated measures used in clinical settings that have been made into an interactive screening tool that can be taken anonymously from home.”


Schroeder hopes that attendees of the Public Policy Exchange’s symposium left with an understanding of the seriousness of the current mental health crisis and the opportunities surrounding telehealth and virtual care, especially in rural communities. “There is great value in virtual care, but it can’t be the answer for communities without broadband,” Schroeder emphasized. “No single solution is a silver bullet.”



Learn more about the Behavioral Health Bridge.

Learn more about Public Policy Exchange.

View the Mountains Plains MHTTC event calendar