Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act sponsored by Rounds

A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) would establish a home-based telemental health care grant program to increase mental health and substance use services for medically underserved populations in rural areas, particularly those working in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations.

“Individuals in rural areas may not have easy access to a mental health facility, making in-person visits difficult for those seeking care,” Sen. Rounds said on April 5. “Utilizing telemental health capabilities will allow South Dakotans in rural areas to receive quality care from the comfort of their homes. 

“Not only does this save time and resources, it provides an important mental health service for our farmers and ranchers, who for years have suffered economically due to challenging weather, trade disputes and price disparities,” he added.  

The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2023, S. 1077, which Sen. Rounds sponsored with three original cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Tina Smith (D-MN), would award grants to health provider entities to establish mental health and substance use services for rural populations in their homes, particularly those working in farming, fishing and forestry occupations, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

If enacted, S. 1077 would authorize up to $10 million for each fiscal year through 2027 using current funds, the summary says.

“Right now, too many people don’t have access to the mental or behavioral health care they need, and that’s especially true in rural communities,” said Sen. Smith. “Our bipartisan bill will help health providers in rural areas expand telemental healthcare services for farmers, ranchers and foresters, and many others in local communities who are experiencing stress, burnout and other mental challenges.”

The legislation is supported by the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Avera McKennan, Sanford Health, Monument Health, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, the South Dakota Farmers Union, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Rural Health Association.