Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Telehealth is a treatment option that is becoming more common for rural Missourians seeking mental health help, says Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist.

Telehealth encompasses health care, including counseling services, delivered remotely, reducing or eliminating the need to travel. “Telehealth brings health care to you through a cellphone or the internet, regardless of where you live,” says Funkenbusch.

Missouri has the largest shortage of providers in the U.S., according to “Growing Stress on the Farm,” published in 2020 by the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Missouri Department of Mental Health, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Hospital Association and MU Extension. Each of Missouri’s 99 rural counties is a designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Area.

Telehealth gives rural residents more choices in health care providers, Funkenbusch says. It also may cut down on the need to take time off work or obtain child care, saving patients money and time.

Telehealth may not be for everyone, she says, but it does provide a valuable, confidential service for many. It can be intimidating at first, but with a little preparation, it can be convenient tool to improve your mental health.

MU Extension coordinates with the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center and the Missouri Department of Agriculture to provide resources through USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grants. These resources include free telehealth sessions for farmers, ranchers and their immediate family members. To request free teletherapy counseling, go to, email or call 573-882-4677.

Not all telehealth services require a computer. Many may be available over a smartphone or tablet with an internet connection. Some preparation is needed, but your health care provider will help you learn how to access services.

MU Health Care has tips to prepare for a telehealth visit at Each provider may have different methods, so ask before your visit.

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