USDA funds 81 distance learning and telemedicine projects

USDA funds 81 distance learning and telemedicine projects

Many medical services and advanced educational opportunities are unavailable to residents of rural communities because they often lack the telecommunications infrastructure and equipment to support such programs.

To help connect such rural communities with medical specialists and educational programs in other parts of the country, the Department of Agriculture is awarding $23.4 million in grants to fund 45 distance learning and 36 telemedicine projects in 32 states. The funding will expand access to healthcare, training centers, substance abuse treatment and advanced educational opportunities and resources.

The grants will go towards audio and videoconferencing equipment, computer hardware, software and wiring and network infrastructure to support the services as well as educational programming.

Specialized services are often unattainable in rural areas, but telemedicine has been able to help by facilitating the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Grant recipient Marietta Memorial Hospital in Marietta, Ohio, will use the funding to build the first telemedicine system in its region, linking 14 hospitals and clinics in rural Ohio and West Virginia. A counseling center in Indiana will build a similar system for real-time connectivity with experts to improve mental health services in rural counties. 

An educational service agency in Wisconsin will receive $134,000 to improve its distance learning capabilities. It will expand on a USDA-funded network that connects the state’s rural schools with those serving the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in Alaska so that they can share teaching resources, educational content and even access to technical college-level classes.

USDA Rural Development has provided $213 million for 634 distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas nationwide since 2009. The full list of this year’s recipients and projects can be found on USDA’s website.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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