WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced legislation to study the barriers that Wyoming’s farming and ranching communities face when accessing mental and behavioral health care services.
“Wyoming farmers and ranchers have done a remarkable job feeding the nation in the midst of unprecedented challenges, but the critical work they do often comes at a great personal cost,” said Lummis. “Wyoming currently has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and we have a responsibility to swiftly address this crisis. Improving accessibility to mental and behavioral health care services is essential to addressing this heartbreaking problem facing our state, and I’m excited to partner with Senator Bennet to identify ways we can improve access to these services throughout rural America.”
“Colorado’s farmers and ranchers face uncertainty from forces beyond their control, and Congress needs to do more to help them access the mental and behavioral health care they need,” said Bennet. “This bill will help us understand the barriers they face and improve access to care for Americans in rural communities across the country.”
According to the National Rural Health Association, the rate of suicide among farmers is three and a half times greater than the general population. A Morning Consult poll found that during 2021, farmers and agricultural workers (61%) and rural adults (52%) reported experiencing more stress and mental health challenges compared to the year prior. The same poll also found that while the stigma around seeking help or treatment for mental health has decreased, it still remains a factor.
Wyoming continues to have one of the highest suicide rates in the country with 149 suicides (or 26.66 per 100,000 residents) reported in 2022 according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
The Agricultural Access to Substance Use Disorder and Treatment and Mental Health Care Act would require the GAO to conduct a study to address these barriers and improve access to care.
Specifically, the study mandated by the legislation will assess:
- The availability and accessibility of substance use treatment and mental health care providers trained to serve the needs of farmers, ranchers, agricultural workers and their families;
- Barriers faced by farmers and ranchers in accessing substance use disorder treatment and mental health care resources;
- Successful programs at the state and local levels that can be replicated at the federal level to address the mental and behavioral health needs of agricultural communities; and
- Best practices among grantees of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
The text of the bill is available here.