, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 306-322

Increased mental health caseloads in an energy boomtown

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Mental health administrators in high growth areas are challenged to meet increasing service demands in a time of declining federal support. Existing literature on energy boomtowns in the western United States would suggest that administrators in these areas should prepare especially to meet the needs of newcomers. Increasing service demands in boomtowns have often been attributed to the “special problems” of these incoming energy workers and their families, or to a “predisposition” on their part to use agency services of all types. This article examines this hypothesis through a longitudinal analysis of individual-level mental health caseload data from an energy boomtown. Findings indicate that while energy-related persons account for a substantial portion of the service demand, their use of mental health services is not disproportionately high for their relative population numbers, nor are their problems more severe than those of their nonenergy counterparts. Rather, a major portion of the caseload increase was due to the needs of the nonenergy population, among whom theper capita caseload effectively doubled within four years.

Linda M. Bacigalupi is with the Foundation for Urban and Neighborhood Development 2653 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO 80211. William R. Freudenberg is with the Dept. of Sociology and the Dept. of Rural Sociology, Washington State University in Pullman, WA. The research reported in this article was made possible in part through the assistance of the Western Rural Development Center and the Division of Impact Assistance of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and through the excellent cooperation of the Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center. The authors, however, bear the sole responsibility for the article's contents. This is Scientific Paper Number 6357, Agricultural Research Center, Washington State University. Requests for reprints should be directed to the first author at the above address.