An empirical assessment of rural community support networks for individuals with severe mental disorders

Community Ment Health J. 1998 Feb;34(1):39-56. doi: 10.1023/a:1018712212309.


The community support network has been well-established as a requirement for community treatment of individuals with severe mental disorders. This network generally consists of a multidisciplinary set of organizations that interrelate in some manner with individuals in the community. The question of coordination within this network has been much discussed; however little published research has empirically examined the types and extent of coordination among network organizations. In particular, little attention has been given to community support networks in rural communities. In each of seven rural counties, information was obtained on inter-actions among organizations in the community support network. These networks were analyzed to yield information on network density and centralization. Using measures of centrality, the most central organizations in each network were identified. Exchanges of information were the most common type of interaction among organizations in each network. Client referrals occurred less frequently, and sharing of resources was an even rarer phenomenon. Network analysis of community support networks provides an objective perspective on the structure of community support networks. An understanding of exchange among organizations within these networks is of value to administrators, clinicians, and planners interested in achieving greater effectiveness, as well as to patients, their families, and advocacy groups concerned with access and quality of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Community Mental Health Services*
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • North Carolina
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Patient Care Team
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Support*