WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce legislation to expand telemental health services in rural areas. The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2020 would establish a grant program for health providers to expand telemental health services for those specifically in rural populations working in farming, forestry and fishing industries.
“Telehealth provides an opportunity for Arkansans to get help while protecting themselves and medical professionals from potential exposure to COVID-19. Providing resources to support the mental health needs of rural populations is necessary as we continue to address the ongoing pandemic and the challenges facing rural America,” Boozman said.
This legislation would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth of the Health Resources and Services Administration, in coordination with the Rural Health Liaison of the Department of Agriculture, to award grants to entities to establish demonstration projects for the provision of telemental health services for rural populations, specifically those working in the farming, fishing and forestry occupations. It would authorize up to $10 million for each fiscal year through 2025, using current funds.
The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2020 was introduced by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Tina Smith (D-MN). In addition to Boozman, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
The bill is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“The recent pandemic, challenging weather, destructive pests, trade disputes, labor shortages and market volatility over the past few years have brought an unprecedented level of pressure on America’s farmers. A 2019 Farm Bureau survey shows that an overwhelming majority of farmers and farmworkers say financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing their farm negatively impact their mental health. Farm Bureau supports the Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act and thanks Senators Mike Rounds and Tina Smith for their leadership in addressing the topic of mental health in rural communities,” said RJ Karney, Director Congressional Relations, American Farm Bureau Federation.
Boozman is also a cosponsor of the Health Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act that would bolster funding for health care providers in rural areas for the expansion of broadband and telehealth services.