Author ORCID Identifier



The growing mental health concerns during COVID-19, particularly among rural residents, is a public health emergency. Rural residents are at an elevated risk, as rurality has been associated with various disparities, including lower accessibility to mental health services. Maryland Rural Opioid Technical Assistance (ROTA; Maryland Extension) aimed to address this issue by delivering evidence-based programs on opioid misuse and mental health to rural community members and practitioners throughout Maryland when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and all research activities had to transition to the virtual setting. The current study provides an overview of the implementation process of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program and reports the findings from the evaluation efforts. Participants (N = 398) completed a one-time online survey and answered open-ended questions, reporting high satisfaction rates and positive experiences with the virtual delivery of the program. Results suggested that the virtual format was still effective in program content delivery and that virtual delivery of evidence-based programs may be an opportune strategy to reach more rural residents. Recommendations for future research and practice efforts include building sustainable partnerships with local community organizations and considering rurality and prolonged-pandemic factors for effective program implementation.



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