Vandalia, Missouri is facing a number of economic issues, with mental health being one of the most pressing. Data from the United States shows that the majority of Missouri is suffering from a shortage of mental health professionals, and this shortage is even more pronounced in rural areas. Superintendent John Fortney is committed to creating an environment in which mental health is addressed and discussed openly. He has identified anxiety and depression as the two main mental health issues for students in the district. In order to provide long-term care for students, parental consent is required.
This can be difficult due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. School districts can generate additional funding through voter-approved property taxes, but this is not an option for districts with high rates of poverty. Lisa Dierking, school mental health coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), has suggested other options for rural communities to strengthen mental health support. Schools can use these funds to hire mental health professionals from schools, hire community mental health providers (including telehealth providers), and reimburse miles associated with contracted service appointments. Audrain County has seen impressive economic growth over the past fifteen years, with Mexico City, the county seat, leading the way. Despite this growth, there are still many economic issues that need to be addressed in Vandalia and throughout Missouri.