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Rural mental health program expands to all of Illinois

Rural mental health program expands to all of Illinois

Illinois Director of Agriculture Jerry Costello

Illinois Director of Agriculture Jerry Costello speaks at the 2021 Farm Progress Show in Decatur.

DECATUR, Ill. — In recognition of a need for more mental health services for farmers and in rural communities, state officials announced a pilot project of six counties will expand to include all 102 counties in Illinois.

At the 2021 Farm Progress Show in Decatur on Aug. 31, Illinois Director of Agriculture Jerry Costello announced a grant award of $500,000 to increase farmer stress-related mental health initiatives statewide through the Farm Family Resource Initiative.

“Mental health is not a secondary health care. In Illinois, mental health care is health care,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), who doesn’t farm himself but comes from a fifth-generation farm family, pushed for the creation of the Farm Family Resource Initiative, which started as a pilot project in six southern counties — Christian, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Morgan and Sangamon. Key elements were a hotline and telecare assistance.

“Small farms are the core of our state’s economy, and farmers are on the front lines to provide food for our communities. The reality of this pandemic is that a new layer of stress has been put on farmers and farm families,” said Bennett. 

The new funding, along with federal USDA dollars, will add text and e-mail communication options, increase marketing of the helpline, provide vouchers for professional behavioral health services, provide agricultural literacy training for mental health providers, and provide Mental Health First Aid trainings for agricultural community members, Costello said. The helpline is 1-833-FARM-SOS.

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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