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Illinois expands programs to address farmers’ mental health

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(The Center Square) – Illinois state officials have expanded the state’s plan to address the mental health of Illinois farmers.

State officials attended the 2023 Farm Progress Show in Decatur this week to announce funding for a grant program that addresses mental health issues among farmers.

The program is a partnership between the state and Southern Illinois University and will provide a telehealth helpline and fund up to 20 grants at $1,000 each to support Future Farmers of America chapters implementing local initiatives encouraging access to mental health resources. All FFA chapters in Illinois are eligible to apply for the grant, and grant applications will be available from the Illinois FFA Foundation in fall 2023.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello said the grant funding will allow them to expand their reach for this program.

“When it was created, it covered six pilot counties,” Costello said. “Now that program covers the entire state of Illinois, all 102 counties.”

The Farmer Assistance Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-833-FARM-SOS.

Dan Mahony, president of the Southern Illinois University System, said he’s never seen this much support for the state’s farmers.

“I have lived in many parts of the country, and I have never seen this amount of support for agriculture from a wide range of elected officials,” Mahony said. “We thank all of them for all of their efforts on behalf of agriculture. It’s important to me in my role, but also to me personally.”

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said the program gives farmers the support they deserve.

“As many in our rural communities struggle not only with mental health but overcoming stigma to seek help, our state is coming together with the Rural Mental Health Grant Program to provide the support our rural communities need and deserve,” Stratton said. “That is at the core of this grant program, and we will continue to invest in the efforts that uplift the needs of rural Illinoisans.”

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