News from Representative Tom Emmer

Dear Friend, 

May is Mental Health Month. 

Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, class or ethnicity. It affects all segments of society. More than 11 million Americans have severe schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression yet millions are going without treatment as families struggle to find care for loved ones.

Left untreated, those with mental illness may end up on the streets or in the criminal justice system. In some correctional facilities, between 20 and 50 percent of inmates have a serious mental illness. One-third of the homeless, an estimated 250,000 people, are mentally ill.

Congressman Emmer meets with NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to discuss the challenges surrounding treatment of mental illnesses. 

In the U.S., while deaths by physical diseases like heart disease and breast cancer are on the decline, deaths by drug overdose and suicide are on the rise. This is especially true in Minnesota. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:

“In Minnesota… decrease in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, injuries, and HIV far offset an increase in deaths from mental and substance-use disorders.”

This alarming trend needs to be reversed and Congress can do more than sign checks to bring meaningful change. As one example, I am a co-sponsor of the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 3545) which would reform an antiquated 1970s law called Part 2 to allow doctors to have the information needed to treat patients suffering from substance use disorder (SUD). It is time we start treating SUD like the disease it is – from treatment, to payment, to all health care operations. Laws like Part 2 not only endanger the lives of those with SUD, they write stigma into law.

Congressman Emmer touring Open Doors for Youth in Elk River, MN. Open Doors for Youth offers mental, medical and chemical health services to youth in need. 

Suicide continues to plague our nation. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for the loss of more than 43,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide. Shockingly, in Minnesota, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34. No one is immune from this crisis which is why, when I saw farmers in particular suffer a rate of suicide 5x greater than the normal population, I decided to take action. Learn more about the STRESS Act below. 

If you’re interested in getting involved to combat suicide, click here.

While we still have a long way to go, I remain optimistic. When the largest mental health reform bill in a half-century, the 21st Century Cures Act, was signed into law in 2016, it was a moment of hope for our country. I was proud to co-sponsor Cures as I fully believe it is past time Congress stepped in to ensure those who suffer from mental illness are no longer ignored and left to suffer alone.

This month, during Mental Health Month, I encourage you to help bring awareness to mental illness by talking about its devastating realities. If you have an idea for how Congress can help tackle the mental health crisis in our state and in our nation, share it with me here.

Congressman Emmer participates in a panel with Family Life Mental Health Center and People Incorporated staff to learn about the impact of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics model. 

About the STRESS Act:  

In an effort to turn the tide on the unacceptably high rates of suicide among farmers, I introduced Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act (H.R. 5259). Lack of mental health treatment for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers and the nature of their work contribute to a high-stress environment. Our farmers have been left to suffer alone in the shadows without the help and care they need and deserve. 

The STRESS Act reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) to give states needed resources to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers. Though the program was first authorized in 2008, it did not receive funding and therefore lapsed. This legislation will renew FRSAN, restoring our nation's attention to Americans in farming who are disproportionately affected by high rates of suicide. The language from the STRESS Act was included in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 and will be voted on soon. I am pleased to see this important program gaining the attention it deserves.

Read the full text of H.R. 5259 here.

Read more about my bill here.


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