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Mental health
Resources available for farmers, others
Life on the Ark.jpg

U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.) Wednesday announced a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) grant to the Kansas Department of Agriculture to help connect farmers, ranchers and those in agriculture-related occupations to mental health resources. 

We applaud our senators for promoting the grant. Sen. Moran especially deserves credit because back in 2018 he joined colleagues on both sides of the aisle introducing the Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions For Immediate Response to Stressful Times (FARMERS FIRST) Act to provide our nation’s agricultural community with critical mental health support and resources. (Sen. Marshall was a U.S. Representative at the time.) It was included in the Farm Bill.

Here’s what our senators said when they made the announcement this week:

“This federal investment will provide our Kansas agricultural community with important mental health resources to help during trying times,” said Sen. Moran. “Farmers, ranchers and those working within the agriculture industry livelihoods depend on factors largely outside their control, from the weather to volatile commodity prices, creating stress that can be challenging to face alone. ... I am pleased this grant will spread awareness about the resources offered to Kansans who need assistance coping with ag-related stress.”

“Empowering KDA to provide the assistance and resources necessary to help reduce suicide rates among Kansas farmers and ranchers is some of the best money USDA has ever spent,” said Sen. Marshall. “Farming is one of the most uncertain, stressful jobs in the world. This meaningful investment by USDA will provide local farmers with assistance as they cope with these ongoing challenges, while spreading mental health awareness throughout the Kansas agricultural community.”

This isn’t the only time Sen. Moran has championed access to mental health care. Last year, he and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in November of 2020.

“This bill will bolster the VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural or hard-to-reach veterans’ access to VA care, while making sure veterans have access to alternative and local treatment options,” Moran said after the Senate passed the bill.

“Sadly, our veterans continue to struggle with mental health, and through no fault of their own, this pandemic has led to more veterans being isolated from friends and family and cut off from lifesaving services,” he said, calling on the House to act quickly to “help prevent veteran suicide.”

We applaud our Kansas senators for looking out for our farmers and veterans when it comes to mental health resources. Perhaps we should take more steps in that direction.

Katie Porter (D-Calif.) has introduced the Mental Health Justice Act of 2021.

This bill creates a grant program for states and local governments to train and dispatch mental health professionals to respond, instead of law enforcement officers, to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.

Under the bill’s provisions, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) must manage the program in consultation with the Department of Justice. SAMHSA may cancel grants that increase incarceration or institutionalization. Grantees must use funds for purposes including de-escalation and anti-racism training.

Also this year, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), has introduced the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021. Its purpose is to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve access to mental health services under the Medicare program.

These aren’t the only bills that have been introduced to make mental health services available where they are needed ... which is just about everywhere.