News from Representative Tom Emmer

Dear Friend,

Mental illness affects all segments of society and does not discriminate based on age, class, or ethnicity. Yet, millions are going without treatment as families struggle to find care for loved ones. I recently wrote an op-ed in the Star Tribune about a loophole in mental health care that I am working to close.

Our rural communities have been hit especially hard due to lack of access to care. This Thursday marks National Rural Mental Health Day, a day to highlight the challenges rural communities face and recognize the work being done and the collaborations being formed to deliver mental health care in these difficult to serve areas. 

Often, the nature of the work in rural areas combined with the lack of mental health treatment options put farmers and agriculture workers at a higher risk for suicide and depression. Half the counties in America have no psychologist, no psychiatrist, and no mental health professional and Minnesota is no exception.

Here a few ways I have tried to address the growing suicide epidemic and increase access to mental health care: 

  • I recently introduced the Expanding Access to Inpatient Mental Health Act, which would eliminate a loophole that limits mental health treatment and harms facilities that help provide it.  While the reduction in the number of beds for psychiatric care started as a well-intentioned response to mass institutionalization, it has led to mental health providers being routinely ill-equipped to serve those in need. Under current law, some patients can be forced out of some psychiatric facilities, called Institutes for Mental Disease (IMD), for days at a time, with patients’ needs often unmet. Read my recent op-ed for the Star Tribune here to learn more.
  • Secured funding for a pilot program by reinstating the expired Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). This program was initially established to offer programs including hotlines, community outreach, education, and home delivery of assistance for individuals engaged in farming, ranching and other agriculture-related occupations. Last Congress, I introduced the Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide Act (STRESS) Act. My bill, which passed last Congress reauthorized FRSAN and recently, an initial $1.92 million was granted, and $480,000 was awarded to a partnership between the Iowa and Minnesota Extensions. Read more about the STRESS Act here.
  • I recently became a co-sponsor of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. This bipartisan bill would designate a 3-digit dialing code, similar to 9-1-1, for a suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.  

More must be done, but I am committed to ensuring that the mental health care that is necessary is accessible by all who need it. 

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