Tony Hass walks through his horse paddock on his ranch on Thursday, Aug. 1. In southwest Colorado, the suicide rate is 31.8 per 100,000 residents, compared with 20.2 per 100,000 statewide. A state survey indicated in Las Animas County, which does not have a practicing psychologist, more than 1 in 6 say they suffer from poor mental health, according to the Colorado Rural Health Center.

Colorado farmers and ranchers can get help licensed behavioral health professionals and receive vouchers to offset the cost thanks to a program announced Wednesday afternoon by the Colorado Farm Bureau.

A coalition of farm and ranch trade groups and behavioral health organizations launched the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program to connect those who need help with professionals "who have taken the time to understand the specific stressors our agricultural communities face," the Farm Bureau said in the announcement.

“Farmers and ranchers can face an overwhelming amount of pressure," rancher Carlyle Currier, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said in the statement. "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.

“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.”

The press release cited research from the American Farm Bureau Federation that indicated 91% of farmers and farmworkers have financial concerns and 87% fear of losing their farm.

Access and cost of mental health services get in the way for rural communities, so the new partnership aims to address those hurdles.

“Colorado Farm Bureau along with other agriculture organizations have been working to find mental health support for rural communities for a while now,” stated Rebecca Edlund, the organization's associate director of technology and membership. “The CAAMHP program builds off of the momentum these organizations have gained and provides targeted care for those who need it.”

Executive vice president Chad Vorthmann said part of the organization's mission is to protect rural communities.

“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," he said. "Our hope is that this program will get resources to those in historically hard-to-reach areas and ultimately, save lives.”

Learn more about the program by clicking here

The partnership also includes the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust, AgrAbility, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and others.

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