A pilot program that provides telehealth mental health services to rural farmers is set to expand statewide, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday.

The program, an initiative of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the state’s departments of agriculture and human services, launched in 2021 in six counties as a helpline for those in need of mental health services.

Along with being available in all 102 counties, individuals will have access to six free telehealth sessions.

“There is nothing more important than making sure that every Illinoisan has access to the mental health services that they need to lead to happier and healthier lives,” Pritzker said during the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.

Additionally, Pritzker announced a new grant program that will provide up to $1,000 to chapters of the Illinois FFA Foundation, which has around 41,000 members, to increase awareness of mental health and wellness services in schools and communities.

The hope is that individuals will be able to work with their community members to tackle mental health stigmas, particularly among rural farmers who may have never sought services.

“This generation knows that healthcare includes mental healthcare,” Pritzker said. “I know that we have, historically, across the United States, treated it like there’s a stigma associated with mental healthcare. No longer and especially for this youngest generation of adults — they understand how important it is.”

The grants will be funded by the federal United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.