Brindisi’s Bill to boost rural mental health care receives key endorsement

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From the office of Anthony Brindisi:

Congressman Anthony Brindisi’s bipartisan Seeding Rural Resilience Act received the endorsement from the bipartisan, bicameral Problem Solvers Caucus.

Brindisi and fellow Problem Solver Congressman John Katko (NY-24) introduced the legislation last year to fight to increase mental health care options for producers and rural communities across the country.

“I am thrilled the Problem Solvers Caucus has endorsed my Seeding Rural Resilience Act,” said Brindisi. “Whether it’s low prices, a trade war, or Mother Nature, much of a farmer’s bottom line is out of their control, and that uncertainty can add to daily stresses.

Our bill will help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our rural communities and ensure all farmers have better access to mental health care.

Mental health for our farmers and in our rural communities needs to be above party politics and I am hopeful we can get this bill done.”

The legislation received the caucus’ endorsement when at least 75 percent of the 48-member caucus agreed to support the bill.

The Problem Solvers Caucus is led by New York Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) and New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

“Too many folks in farming families we care about face isolation, long travel times to access health care, and lack of adequate resources and support. This is not fair,” said Problem Solvers co-chair Reed.

“But this does not have to be our reality.  I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in endorsing the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, which will help our neighbors living in rural areas know about the tools and resources available to assist them.”

“I am proud that the Problem Solvers Caucus has endorsed the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced alongside Reps. Brindisi and Craig to improve mental healthcare for farming families,” said Katko.

“With the current rate of suicide in rural communities 45% higher than it is in urban areas, this legislation will improve awareness of mental illness in rural areas and expand access to quality mental healthcare by establishing suicide prevention training programs in rural communities. I thank the Problem Solvers Caucus for supporting this measure and look forward to continuing our work to pass meaningful and bipartisan legislation to improve mental healthcare for our nation’s rural communities.”

The bill is also supported by key agriculture groups like: 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.

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).

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