Reps. Harshbarger, Salinas Introduce Bill to Expand Mental Telehealth Services for Rural Patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week, Representatives Diana Harshbarger and Andrea Salinas (OR-6) introduced the Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act, bipartisan legislation that expands access to mental health and substance abuse services for rural patients, particularly for individuals in the farming, fishing, and forestry industries.

The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with the Department of Agriculture to award grants to entities to establish health and substance use telehealth services for rural Americans, especially for those working in farming, fishing, and forestry. This bill would also authorize up to $10 million annually through 2027 for the aforementioned grants, without additional federal spending.

"As a community pharmacist for over three decades in one of our nation's most rural Congressional Districts, I understand the unique challenges faced by rural patients all too well," said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. "Seeking access to mental health and substance abuse services often entails a long and arduous journey for rural patients, especially those working in Tennessee's farming, fishing, and forestry industries. Our common-sense bill will allow patients to receive the critical care they need from the comfort of their own home, and improve patient outcomes for individuals residing in rural areas throughout the country."

“Accessing mental health care shouldn’t require an in-person visit, especially for Americans in rural areas who have to travel long distances to see a provider,” said Rep. Salinas. “Our bipartisan bill would expand telemental health services in rural Oregon, with an emphasis on those working in the farming, fishing, and forestry industries. This legislation would save folks time and resources and help more Oregonians get the care they need, when they need it.”

The legislation has been endorsed by the National Rural Health Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, Tennessee Farm Bureau, Tennessee Cattlemen's Association, and East Tennessee State University's Director for the Institute for Integrated Behavioral Health.

“The National Rural Health Association applauds Representatives Harshbarger and Salinas for their introduction of The Home Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2023,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association. “This important legislation creates a telemental health demonstration program designed to address specific behavioral health and substance use needs for folks in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations. This bill will increase access to behavioral health and substance use services for our most rural and medically underserved populations.”

“I am excited to support our Congresswoman in co-leading bipartisan legislation that will expand our capacity to help rural Tennesseans," said Jodi Polaha Jones, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist, Professor, Director, Institute for Integrated Behavioral Health, East Tennessee State University. "The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act will infuse needed funding to an evidence-based approach that has not been fully adopted in East Tennessee. As behavioral health professionals in primary care, we see this as an opportunity to provide more accessible and acceptable follow-up care for our rural patients.” 

U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-UT) and Tina Smith (D-MN) are leading a companion bill in the Senate.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at