Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) offered a resolution expressing support for the designation of November 18, 2021, as “National Rural Mental Health Day.”
“The National Center for Health Statistics reported the 2017 suicide rate for the most rural counties was 1.8 times higher than the suicide rate for the most urban counties. Statistics like this should cause alarm and inspire action,” said Emmer.
“Currently, there is a chronic shortage of mental health professionals in rural communities, and residents must often travel long distances to receive the services they desperately need. Congress should be committed to addressing these health care shortages and ensuring every corner of America has the resources it needs,” Emmer concluded.
The resolution raises awareness for our rural communities and commits the House of Representatives to the following initiatives:
- designating November 18, 2021, as National Rural Mental Health Day;
- addressing disparities in mental healthcare across the country, including in rural America; and
- maintaining continued support for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and other programs that aid struggling individuals in our rural communities.
Congressman Emmer has long fought to secure mental health resources for rural Americans. In 2018, Congressman Emmer introduced the STRESS Act to address the lack of mental health resources available in rural areas, specifically individuals who work in agriculture, an industry that has long suffered from higher rates of depression and suicide.
The STRESS Act reauthorized the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a program that was first created in 2008 but lapsed due to a lack of funding. The STRESS Act passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, renewing the FRSAN and moving America one step closer to addressing this crisis. Since then, Emmer has led the way to provide continued funding for this program in each appropriations cycle.
In addition, Congressman Emmer has advocated for telehealth services for rural communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth appointments became commonplace, proving especially successful for mental and behavioral health. Congressman Emmer urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue to offer telehealth services beyond the pandemic as a standard service for patients.
Congressman Emmer also introduced the Grant Residency for Additional Doctors (GRAD) Act of 2021 to address the physician shortage facing rural and underserved America. This legislation would direct the Department of State to establish a dedicated staff position within the department to process J-1 visa applications during times of increased demand. A J-1 visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that international medical students and physicians use to work in U.S.-based medical residency programs. By addressing delays in the J-1 visa process, foreign physicians can help to stave off the severe doctor shortage that America, especially rural America, is currently facing.
To read more about Congressman Emmer’s work on health care, visit his website here.