Rounds sponsors bipartisan bill to establish telemental health demonstration program

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) on June 9 led a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers in unveiling legislation to expand telemental health services in America’s rural areas via a newly established federal demonstration program.

“Those living in rural areas may live far away from a mental health facility, making in-person visits difficult for those seeking care,” Sen. Rounds said. “Utilizing telemental health capabilities will allow South Dakotans in rural areas to receive quality care from the comfort of their homes.”

Sen. Rounds sponsored the bipartisan Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2020, S. 3917, with original cosponsors U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tina Smith (D-MN) to establish a home-based telemental health care demonstration program for purposes of increasing mental health services in rural medically underserved populations and for individuals in farming, fishing and forestry occupations, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“Not only does this save time and resources, it provides an important mental health service during a difficult period for our farmers and ranchers, who for years have suffered economically due to low commodity prices, trade disputes and price disparities,” said Sen. Rounds.

If enacted, S. 3917 would direct the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, among others, to award grants toward establishing the demonstration projects, and would authorize up to $10 million for each fiscal year through 2025 using current funds, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Rounds’ office.

The bill is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation and has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.