Launched this spring by the Colorado Farm Bureau and several agriculture and behavioral health partners, the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program provides support and resources for farmers and ranchers struggling with mental health. The program provides vouchers to offset the cost of accessing licensed, ag-friendly behavioral health professionals.
According to research by the American Farm Bureau Federation, a strong majority of farmers and farmworkers think financial issues (91%), farm or business problems (88%) and fear of losing the farm (87%) impact the mental health of farmers. Often, access to these services is difficult in rural communities because of the cost and availability of health services in isolated communities.
“Farmers and ranchers can face an overwhelming amount of pressure. They’re responsible for growing food and caring for livestock under difficult conditions. For many, keeping the farm going for the next generation is also incredibly important. It weighs on you,” said Colorado Farm Bureau President Carlyle Currier. “Providing access to mental health resources during some of the darkest times in our friends’, families’ and neighbors’ lives is so important, and we’re proud to be a part of this work.”
Participants in the program can request vouchers that allow them to connect – for free – with licensed behavioral health professionals who have taken the time to understand the specific stressors agricultural communities face. The program is anonymous and focuses primarily on telehealth services, allowing farmers and ranchers to access care during the most stressful seasons, when leaving their work may not feel possible.
“Part of Colorado Farm Bureau’s mission is to protect rural communities and we have worked hard here in Colorado and nationally with the American Farm Bureau Federation to ensure our communities are rural strong,” says Chad Vorthmann, Colorado Farm Bureau executive vice president. “We have heard of too many stories in our communities where those who are struggling can’t find the help they need, leading to a tragic end. Our hope is that this program will get resources to those in historically hard-to-reach areas and ultimately, save lives.”
The following organizations have partnered with Colorado Farm Bureau on CAAMHP: Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust, Colorado AgrAbility Project, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado State University Extension, Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, Goodwill of Colorado, Energize Colorado and The Colorado Trust.
“Colorado Farm Bureau along with other agriculture organizations have been working to find mental health support for rural communities for a while now,” says Rebecca Edlund, associate director of technology and membership for the Colorado Farm Bureau. “CAAMHP builds off of the momentum these organizations have gained and provides targeted care for those who need it.”
For farmers, ranchers and other rural residents outside of Colorado, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm State of Mind website provides a state-by-state directory of mental health resources.