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NASDA Members Commit to Improving Rural Mental Health
USAgNet - 02/27/2020

At the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture 2020 Winter Policy Conference, NASDA members urged Congress to continue funding the U.S. Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network for Fiscal Year 2021. The action item, sponsored by Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh and Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward, builds upon NASDA's recently announced Resilience for Rural America initiative for the presidential campaigns.

"We thank the U.S. House and Senate Committees on Appropriations for funding the mental health pilot program in 2019 and releasing a full $10 million in funding for rural health in 2020," said NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn. "First and foremost, nothing is more important than the health and wellness of our farmers and ranchers, and the past few years have been especially trying for agriculture."

State agriculture departments have quickly implemented the federal dollars, and after several mental health programs' first success, state agriculture officials have agreed, "we need more."

In Virginia, Commissioner Bronaugh partnered with Agri-Safe for the creation of the Southern Region Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. First-year objectives for the network include reevaluating current stress assistance principals from the framework of a rural audience, bringing awareness to resources, and training rural health professionals and community influencers.

In Colorado, Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg is leading the development of new rural-focused public service announcements and other outreach materials that provide call and text information for Colorado's Crisis Services Hotline.

Across the country, the initial federal funding has been used to create region-wide networks that will inform community members about mental health resources in their area and train those who interact with farmers on how to identify signs of stress in others.

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