Distance learning, telemedicine investments on deck (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Anne Herring is a partnership liaison specialist with Virginia Rural Development.)
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced the USDA is investing $72 million in grants to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities.
These investments will benefit more than 12 million rural residents.
“Increasing access to telemedicine and distance learning is critical to building healthier and more resilient rural communities,” Perdue said. “Paired with our monumental effort to expand high-speed broadband access in rural America, these investments will help rural health care centers and education institutions reach more rural residents with essential services and opportunities.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
The USDA is funding 116 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program.
The program helps health care and education institutions buy the equipment and software necessary to deploy distance-learning and telemedicine services to rural residents.
Perdue announced investments recently in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Virginia’s list includes the following projects announced recently:
• Lee County School District ($752,857). This Rural Development investment will be used to connect students and teachers at elementary, middle, and high schools to each other and to the Lee County Central Office and Career and Technical Center.
The goals are to provide Science Technology Engineering and Math courses and resources such as robotics competitions and meetups with in-the-field STEM professionals, provide students in alternative education programs the opportunity to attend their classes in real time, enable teachers to access quality professional development synchronously without incurring travel and time costs, and provide access for students as well as for the area community to tele counseling services and preventative substance abuse education. Partnerships with local town councils and the Board of Supervisors will create opportunities to utilize the project equipment, consisting of interactive video conferencing technology, for local community meetings and forums.
The project will benefit a total of 4,590 people and includes Jonesville, Va. which is in an opportunity.
• Retina and Vitreous Center, P.C., ($887,525). The Rural Development investment will be used to purchase telehealth equipment required to provide diagnostic and treatment services to patients with diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye tumors and ocular oncology, among other specialties.
The system in each clinic will include live interactive videoconferencing hardware and software, a digital stethoscope, a specialized hand-held exam and diagnostics camera, and a variety of lens options. I
mages, data, and content would be presented during a live, interactive connection with a specialist supporting the clinician and patient at the remote location.
• Carilion Medical Center ($947,983). This Rural Development investment will be used to increase patient access to high-quality primary and specialty care services in 14 counties and six independent cities located in western Virginia through the expansion and optimization of an existing telemedicine network.
Project equipment will include telemedicine carts (for the provision of teleneurology), peripherals to facilitate physical examinations of patients by transmitting audio visual information to remote physicians (for use in the proposed virtual care centers) and portable examination and vital sign devices.
• Mountain States Health Alliance ($313,361). This Rural Development investment will be used to help fund a “School-Based Telemedicine Virtual Health Clinic” that will improve the availability of health care to under-served children across eight counties in Tennessee and Virginia.
Quality health care is provided right in the school setting without the need for transportation by parents/guardians. The program improves access to acute sick care for school children and faculty and removes transportation as an obstacle to care.
To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, contact a USDA Rural Development state office.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925