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DATCP Assistant Secretary: Working Together on Mental Health

DATCP Assistant Secretary: Working Together on Mental Health

The following is a comment written by Randy Romanski, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

During May Mental Health Month, DATCP emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself. Mental health is central to our overall health, and ignoring our mental health needs can affect our quality of life; just as ignoring a broken leg affects our ability to sit or walk comfortably. The past few years have added a new and unique stress to everyone’s already full plate.

At DATCP, our team works to make sure we provide education as we make arrangements so that consumers have confidence in their food and fuel, businesses have access to a fair market, and those we interact with on a daily basis feel supported. Since the mid-1980s, thousands of farming families have turned to DATCPs. Wisconsin Farm Center for financial and business consultations, succession planning, senior farmer assistance and the Farmer’s Health Programme. The Wisconsin Farm Center is just one of the tools DATCP uses to support Wisconsinites, but it’s crucial.

Since Governor Evers took office, we’ve built more effective and effective relationships with mental health and community partners, consistently given more mental health coupons to farmers, and we’ve seen an increase in the amount of mental health coupons used by farmers. DATCP has also launched the 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Health Hotline so that farmers struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety or other issues can get help anytime.

In 2020, Veterinary Professional Assistance Program (VPAP) created by. Veterinary Inspection Board (VEB) and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association, to provide 24/7 confidential services to veterinarians. VEB bears the costs of the VPAP program and supports veterinarians who do not have access to care. Through the work of VEB, VPAP, Wisconsin Farm Center, and DATCP field staff, we are able to support the farming community and those who need support.

Governor Evers’ latest budget has allocated additional funds for the farmer mental health voucher program at the Wisconsin Farm Center, providing free and reduced counseling sessions to those who would otherwise not be able to access this life-saving and affirming healthcare. DATCP also has the opportunity to receive federal funding, including funding from the USDA National Food and Agriculture Institute (NIFA), to help reduce the stigma of seeking help and increase access to mental health resources. While the consistent work we do to support those in need yields positive results, we cannot stop here.

The Wisconsin Farm Center will continue to serve farmers as long as it has capacity, and government funding makes it much more accessible to farmers of all backgrounds and financial situations. As we enter the state budget session next year, we look forward to continuing to work with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, stakeholders and legislators to support a long-term investment in farmer mental health programming. Together, we can ensure that our communities are welcoming, stigmatized, and supportive to those in need.

If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, chronic stress, or depression, have the DATCP contact the 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline at (888) 901-2558 or the VPAP at (866)440-6556. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

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