Amid Growing Economic Crisis and Global Pandemic, Brindisi & Katko Call For Rural Mental Health Provisions in Next Coronavirus Relief Bill

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April 9, 2020
Press Release

As Economy Stumbles & Unemployment Skyrockets, Congressmen Urge House And Senate Leaders To Include Increased Access To Mental Health Care In Rural Communities In Next Coronavirus Relief Package

 

Brindisi & Katko: During Pandemic, More Needs To Be Done To Support American Agriculture And Expand Access To Mental Health Care In Rural Communities 

 

Congressmen Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) and John Katko (NY-24) are fighting to increase access to mental health care for rural communities in the next coronavirus relief bill. The members called on Congress to include their bipartisan Seeding Rural Resilience Act in future relief legislation.

 

“After weeks speaking with our constituents who are living through this pandemic, we believe more needs to be done to support American agriculture and expand access to mental health care in rural communities,the members wrote. “One way we can help is by expanding access to critical mental health care for our nation’s farmers. That is why we ask that the next piece of legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic includes the text of the Seeding Rural Resilience Act.”

 

From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates grew in nearly all 50 states. New York’s 22nd Congressional district has a higher rate of suicide than the state average. And according to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

 

The bipartisan legislation would:

 

  • Implement a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service Employees.
  • Form a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities.
  • Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

 

The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Chuck Grassley (IA). Tester and co-sponsor Congresswoman Angie Craig (MN-02) also signed the letter.

 

The bill is also supported by the American Dairy Coalition, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Farm Aid, Female Farmer Project, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers’ Association, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers’ Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rural & Agricultural Council of America, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Association.

 

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will improve mental health care for farming families by implementing suicide prevention training programs at the USDA, promoting awareness of mental illness in rural areas, and creating a national strategy of best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress,” the members added.

 

Brindisi’s full letter is below:

 

Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer, 

 

Thank you for your ongoing work to support the wellbeing of all Americans and our economy in the face of this unprecedented crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. After weeks speaking with our constituents who are living through this pandemic, we believe more needs to be done to support American agriculture and expand access to mental health care in rural communities. We respectfully request the inclusion of the Seeding Rural Resilience Act (H.R. 4820/S. 2599) in future legislative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

This global crisis has been particularly challenging for American agriculture, which has faced the loss of restaurant and school markets, the widespread dumping of products, and labor disruptions. This widespread market chaos, outside of the farmer’s control, adds to the daily stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of farming life. There is no doubt that further action on the COVID-19 response needs to focus on the American farmer and rural communities. 

 

One way we can help is by expanding access to critical mental health care for our nation’s farmers. That is why we ask that the next piece of legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic includes the text of the Seeding Rural Resilience Act (H.R. 4820/S. 2599). This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will improve mental health care for farming families by implementing suicide prevention training programs at the USDA, promoting awareness of mental illness in rural areas, and creating a national strategy of best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress. This legislation is widely supported by our nation’s farm and mental health groups, and dozens of Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. 

 

We stand ready to work with your offices to help support the American farmer and rural communities during this unprecedented crisis. Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.