Senators Smith, Rounds Lead Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Mental Health Services in Rural America

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)  reintroduced legislation to improve access to mental health and substance use services. The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2023 would establish a grant program for health providers to expand telemental health services in rural areas and for individuals working in the farming, forestry and fishing industries.

“When I experienced depression, resources were there for me. But right now, too many people don’t have access to the mental or behavioral health care they need, and that’s especially true in rural communities,” said Smith. “Our bipartisan bill will help health providers in rural areas expand tele-mental health care services for farmers, ranchers and foresters, and many others in local communities who are experiencing stress, burnout and other mental challenges.”

“Individuals in rural areas may not have easy access to a mental health facility, making in-person visits difficult for those seeking care,” said Rounds. “Utilizing telemental health capabilities will allow South Dakotans in rural areas to receive quality care from the comfort of their homes. Not only does this save time and resources, it provides an important mental health service for our farmers and ranchers, who for years have suffered economically due to challenging weather, trade disputes and price disparities.”

This legislation would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the Rural Health Liaison of the Department of Agriculture, to award grants to public and non-profit mental health and substance use providers to expand access to telehealth services in rural communities and for those in farming, fishing and forestry occupations.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators John Boozman (R- Ark.) and John Thune (R-S.D.).