GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — To help people living in rural areas, Central Michigan University has launched a new institute to focus on providing health care in areas with limited resources.

The CMU Rural Health Equity Institute will “join forces with local communities to promote well-being, quality of life and improve the health status of residents,” the university said in a news release.

Dr. George Kikano, the Dean of the CMU College of Medicine, explained that 57 of Michigan’s 83 counties do not have enough health care employees, particularly mental health.

Local access to mental health services is a glaring disparity in many rural communities. Nearly two-thirds of Michigan’s psychiatrists reside in metropolitan and suburban areas in Southern Michigan,” Kikano stated. “The CMU Rural Health Equity Institute will help coalesce a wide range of programs, people and resources at CMU now responding to the growing need for mental and physical health care.”

The institute will be based out of the College of Medicine’s facilities in Mount Pleasant but will focus specifically on rural areas across Mid-Central and Northern Michigan.

“The Institute reinforces the CMU College of Medicine’s commitment to training physicians to provide comprehensive health care and services to underserved populations in Michigan and beyond,” Kikano said.

Alison Arnold, the director of the CMU Interdisciplinary Center for Community Health and Wellness, says the focus is all about access.

“Structural barriers have led to inequitable health care opportunities for rural residents,” Arnold said in a statement. “Rural health equity means all people living in rural areas can live the healthiest life possible. This includes living a life free from discrimination and unfair treatment, as well as having access to healthcare and social services, safe neighborhoods and places to live, reliable transportation, healthy foods, working wages that support basic needs and community policies that are fair to all people.”