Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Nicole Harris

Second Advisor

Marilyn Klug


Problem: Individuals with a mental health diagnosis in Natrona County may face many barriers to treatment, including a lack of access and a lack of providers. Furthermore, the unique cultural aspects may render available treatment undesirable to these people. Wyoming has various population level mental health challenges including a suicide rate of 24.8 per 100,000 in comparison to the national average of 14.2 per 100,000 (Kaiser Family Foundation [KFF], 2020). Mental Health America (MHA) shows Wyoming ranking 48th in the nation as a state on their access/prevalence ranking as of 2020, indicating high prevalence of mental illness with low access to care (MHA, 2022). The youth and adolescent population of Wyoming is ranked 50th nationally for adolescent mental health care (MHA, 2022). Mental health stigma and cultural values continue to play a large roll in Wyoming and other rural states when it comes to mental health treatment. An additional problem is the relative lack of occupational therapists practicing in mental health in the state, as well as the perception of occupational therapy treatment in mental health treatment. Occupational therapy for mental health treatment is cost effective, client centered, and resonates with the strong cultural values of the people of Wyoming.

Methodology: IRB approval was obtained through the University of North Dakota prior to beginning this research study. A survey was created to gauge practitioner opinions of gaps and barriers to mental health treatment in Natrona County, Wyoming. Participants were identified by website searches of mental health treatment facilities in the county, and surveys were distributed electronically. Electronic informed consent was obtained at the beginning of each survey. A total of 42 survey responses were collected, with one survey being discarded due to incompletion. Data from the collected surveys was then analyzed with the use of SPSS.

Results/Conclusions: Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that funding and stigma were barriers to mental health treatment in the county (85% and 90%, respectively). Additionally, 85% of respondents agreed that Natrona County lacked in post-acute mental health treatment options. When asked what they believed the primary barrier to mental health treatment in the county was, 56% of respondents identified some variation of access as the primary barrier to mental health treatment, citing lack of providers, access to providers or information, or a lack of resources. Approximately 73% identified some variation of need for additional services as the most pressing mental health treatment need in the county. While 59% of respondents indicated they understood the role of occupational therapy in mental health treatment, only 44% agreed to understanding what occupational therapy interventions in mental health look like, and 68% do not know of an occupational therapist currently working in a mental health role.