Growers Urge Support of Behavioral Health Services
Depression and suicide hits all kinds of people in all kinds of work including farming. Local grower Bret Monson of AgForestry Class 42 Public Policy Group says if you don't live in an urban area resources are limited to get help with mental issues. Monson is pushing for passage of House Bill 1196, sponsored by Representative Marcus Riccelli, that he says will help to expand behavioral health services available in rural communities. Farmers and agricultural workers face depression and suicide brought on by weather, crop failures, impacts of global trade policies, and many other factors beyond their control. A press release says "according to 2017 statistics from the Washington State Department of Health, the suicide rate in small towns/isolated rural areas was 21.2 per 100,000 people. This was about 24% higher than the average for the entire state. To address the challenges, Washington has begun requiring telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person care.
The press release says unfortunately, many rural Washingtonians lack adequate broadband access needed to take advantage of these services." Monson says House Bill 1196 and Senate Bill 5325 recognize the unique needs of Washington’s rural agricultural communities and expand the telehealth program through the inclusion of audio-only services.
Monson says an Emergency Order, issued by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner "in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has temporarily allowed audio-only services, but a permanent change is needed to ensure Washington’s rural communities continue to have needed access to mental health services. Monson is urging other growers and ag workers to call lawmakers and urge them to support the legislation so more lives can be saved in the agricultural community. "