Brindisi hosts rural mental health summit

Rep. Anthony Brindisi

Brings together farmers, mental health care advocates and stakeholders

Congressman Anthony Brindisi hosted a rural mental health summit today in Oriskany. Brindisi joined farmers, mental health advocates, and community members for a discussion on how to increase access to mental health care in rural areas.

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.

“Bridging the gap between urban and rural when it comes to access to mental health care is important for communities like ours,” Brindisi said. “Someone suffering from mental illness in New Berlin deserves the same access to care as someone in New York City. My Seeding Rural Resilience Act is a good start, but we need to move the ball forward and think of new and innovative ways to bring care to smaller communities across the state. I heard some good ideas today from the people on the ground and I am hopeful we will continue to make progress on this important issue.”

Local advocates spoke about the importance of mental health services for farmers and rural communities.

“As a dairy Farmer and wife of a dairy Farmer and as someone who suffers from depression/anxiety specifically related to farming and the financial state the industry is in I appreciate Congressman Brindisi bringing attention to this important issue and making this a priority,” said area farmer Anne Lee. “I truly believe not only Farmers, but many Americans suffer from mental health exhaustion. And we need to find ways Farmers can feel comfortable talking and asking for help.  Events like this and Congressman Brindisi’s tireless work to increase access to mental health care go a long way to help our rural communities.”

“New York farmers are an incredibly strong and resilient group of people that are chronically underserved when it comes to primary healthcare and behavioral healthcare,” said Kate Downes, Outreach Director for NY FarmNet. “Farmers work day in and day out milking their cows, growing vegetables, harvesting their crops, feeding our communities, and they need support – both emotionally and financially. Because of deeply ingrained societal stigma, and generations of pressure, farmers are unlikely to reach out for help. NY FarmNet’s culturally competent services, with completely free and confidential, on-farm consulting, helps farmers in times of crisis, times of growth, and in times of change.”

Beyond increasing access to mental health care services for farmers, Brindisi has fought to increase broadband speeds in the area and bring down the cost of health care.

Earlier this year, Brindisi introduced the Seeding Rural Resilience Act along with Congressman John Katko (R-NY) and Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN).

The bipartisan legislation would:

  • Implement a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture 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).

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.

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