The United States Department of Agriculture is funding 128 projects aimed at increasing access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas. The awards were made through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants program.
The funding totals $39.6 million.
USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants
The announcement was made by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Empowering rural Americans with access to services for quality of life and economic development is critical to rural prosperity,” Perdue said in a press release. “Distance learning and telemedicine technology bridges the gap that often exists between rural communities and essential education, workforce training and health care resources.”
More than 4.5 million residents of 40 states and three territories stand to benefit, USDA said.
The press release about the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants highlights two examples of how the funds will be used:
- Washburn University in Kansas has been awarded $349,213 to help enable two-way interactive distance learning via video teleconferencing. The goal is to help rural residents develop skills enabling them to thrive in the modern technical workplace. The investment also will help recruit and retain health care workers for rural communities. More than 3,700 students will have access to educational opportunities, including those in the Lawrence-Gardener Juvenile Corrections Center high school.
- Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma has been awarded $457,020 to help SSM Health Care purchase telemedicine equipment to expand its Saints 1st Telehealth Network to serve as many as 3,434 inpatients and 3,401 outpatients. Patients will be able to gain access to specialized services in such specialties as cardiology; endocrinology; pulmonology; ear, nose and throat (ENT); pediatric; hospitalist; primary care; and mental health care. Telemedicine links will be established in Beaver, Blaine, Custer, Garvin, Harper, Kiowa, Lincoln, Major, McClain, Washita and Woods counties. Nine rural hospitals and three rural physician practices will be involved.
The Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was established in April, 2017. In January, Perdue presented the findings to President Trump. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure was a key recommendation.