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Success Stories

Partners in Mental Health for Rural North Dakota

Christopher Freeman
Community Facilities
Health Care
Picture of McKenzie County Hospital

BISMARCK, N.D. -- According to the North Dakota Behavioral Health Division, nearly 20% of adults in North Dakota suffer from challenges associated with mental illnesses. The importance of prioritizing mental health and working to reduce the stigma associated with seeking professional help have received a lot of attention in recent years. In rural communities, the challenges to providing, delivering, and accessing that care are even greater than their more urban counterparts. 

In Watford City, North Dakota, an area that has experienced significant population growth and workforce recruitment and retention challenges, a new health care facility constructed in 2018 has helped to increase access to all healthcare services, including mental health, especially for those rural western North Dakota. To fill gaps in health care provider shortages on-site, expanding telemedicine capabilities within that new facility was a necessary way to deliver the mental health care that people deserve. 

“McKenzie County Healthcare has greatly improved its services since the new building opened,” said Daniel Kelly, former CEO, McKenzie County Healthcare System. “In our old building, we did have access to Telehealth services, but in the new building, there is a specific area dedicated to those services.” 

Construction of a new hospital is a large undertaking, particularly 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 this multiple times, and I still stand by it; this new hospital would flat out not exist without Rural Development,” said Kelly. “That is not just unique to us. There are multiple facilities that have taken advantage of the funding opportunities from Rural Development to construct new buildings or improve existing structures.”  

“USDA Rural Development improves the quality of life of 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 in them. We’re honored to be here to help build up and support rural and tribal communities and partner together to better serve North Dakotans." 

Obligation Amount:
Date of Obligation:
July 14, 2016
Congressional District: