Columns | Daily Chronicle

Eye On Illinois: Promoting mental health is good, providing access to care is much better

A thousand dollars is a drop in almost any government bucket. But to the optimists, who favor more aspirational aphorisms, it might also be the single step of a thousand-mile journey.

At last week’s Farm Progress Show in Decatur, according to Capitol News Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced up to 20 FFA chapters will receive $1,000 Illinois FFA Foundation grants to fund mental health awareness efforts in rural schools and communities.

A grand can only buy so much awareness. FFA has chapters at more than 350 Illinois schools, meaning about 95% won’t participate in the first round. Furthermore, per CNI, the federal Health Resources & Services Administration definition of a “health professional shortage area” for mental health workers, which it bases on population, mental health provider numbers and prevalence of substance abuse, applies to every rural county in Illinois.

In other words, it’s an incalculable leap from “It’s OK to be not OK” to securing regular appointments with a qualified professional. It’s tough enough to keep up with physical health when doctors and hospitals are scarce, but the unpredictability and individuality of mental health challenges exacerbate the impacts of inability to obtain adequate treatment.

The Foundation is working with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Farm Family Resource Initiative ( That effort also is in its early stages, having launched as a six-county pilot program that now endeavors to leverage state and federal funding to provide stress management and mental health resources across Illinois. This includes up to six free online counseling sessions for ag professionals and their families.

Those in immediate need can reach out to 833-327-6767 (voice or text) or Expect to hear much more on the topic during National Farm Safety & Health Week, starting Sept. 17.

For everyone else – at least those who believe in the importance of access to quality mental health care – it makes sense to work for additional funding and expansion of these efforts along with approaches underway in more urban settings.

Convincing people to seek help is important. Ensuring such help is available demands a much larger commitment.

ON THIS DAY: Thursday marked the 120th birthday of Margaret Landon. Though born just across the border in Somers, Wis., Landon graduated from high school in Evanston and the Wheaton College Class of 1925. Her 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam” sold more than 1 million copies and is the basis for the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “The King and I.” Margaret and her late husband, Kenneth, are interred at Wheaton Cemetery. Their alma mater maintains an impressive digital collection including dozens of hours of audio recordings sorted and segmented by topic. A useful biography also is available at

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at