Senators Smith and Rounds reintroduce bipartisan legislation expanding mental health services in rural communities


WASHINGTON – US Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) led a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce legislation to expand telemental health services in rural areas.

“Now, especially as our country continues to face a pandemic, we must help rural communities overcome their unique mental health barriers,” said Smith. “Our bipartisan bill will help healthcare providers in rural areas expand tele-mental health services for farmers, ranchers and foresters, and many more in local communities who are suffering from stress and exhaustion caused by the pandemic, harsh weather conditions, low commodity prices and more. It is important that they get the services they need during this uncertain time.

“Those in rural areas may live far from a mental health facility, making in-person visits difficult for those seeking care,” Rounds said. “Using telemental health capabilities will allow rural South Dakotans to receive quality care from the comfort of their own homes. Not only does it save time and resources, but it provides a service mental health during a difficult time for our farmers and ranchers, who for years have suffered economically due to harsh weather conditions, trade disputes and price disparities.

Telehome Mental Health Care Act establish a grant program for health providers to expand telemental health services to rural populations. Specifically, the legislation would target people working in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Additional co-sponsors include Senators John Thune (R-SD) and John Boozman (R-AR).

This legislation would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with the Agriculture Department’s Rural Health Liaison, to support telemental health services through grants. The bill would authorize up to $10 million per fiscal year through 2026 using existing funds.

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