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Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Funds Available for Maine Projects: Priority Placed on Telemedicine to Address Opioid Crisis

Emily Cannon
Release Date

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is giving funding priority for applications in a key grant program to address opioid misuse in rural communities.

“The opioid epidemic is dramatically impacting prosperity in many small towns and rural places across the country,” Hazlett said. “With this focused investment, we are targeting our resources to be a strong partner to rural communities to build innovative local responses to this significant challenge.”

USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said, “In a very rural state like Maine, telemedicine can be a vital tool for healthcare facilities who need reach people who are struggling with opioid misuse issues in remote areas of our state. Telemedicine can provide a lifeline to connect patients with critical counseling services, right in their own communities.”

USDA may award up to 30 special consideration points for Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program applications for projects that provide opioid treatment services in 220 at-risk counties identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine counties are: Somerset, Kennebec, Washington, and Waldo. The deadline for these applications is April 15, 2019.

USDA may award 10 special consideration points for opioid-related DLT projects or for those that provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education as their primary purpose. The application deadline for these projects is May 15, 2019.

All DLT applications can be submitted electronically at Grants.gov or in hard copy to: USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2844, Mail Stop 1597, Washington, DC 20250-1597.

For more information about applying for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, please contact General Field Representative Thomas Becker at Thomas.becker@ny.usda.gov.

As an example of a recent investment in Maine, is a grant in the amount of $479,679 to the Maine Rural Health Collaborative. The funding is assisting the Collaborative in addressing opioid misuse through the purchase and installation of interactive telemedicine equipment. A telehealth network was implemented at nine health care facilities in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties. The facilities will be linked to providers in Maine and New Hampshire, and serve more than 115,000 people in four of Maine's most rural counties.

In the past decade, USDA Rural Development has awarded 56 Distance Learning and Telemedine Grants to Maine recipients, for a total investment of $21.9 million in Maine’s rural communities.

President Donald J. Trump has mobilized his entire Administration to address opioid misuse by directing the declaration of a nationwide Public Health Emergency. To help local leaders respond to this epidemic, USDA has worked to build infrastructure for prevention, treatment and recovery, facilitate partnerships, and drive innovation in rural communities. Last year, USDA worked with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to establish a White House Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group that is improving coordination of federal resources in rural America. In December, USDA launched the Community Opioid Misuse Toolbox. This initiative includes the Community Resource Guide, a comprehensive directory of federal resources that can help rural communities address the opioid crisis, and the Community Assessment Tool, an interactive database to help community leaders assess how and why the opioid epidemic is impacting their regions. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/topics/opioids.

USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. Rural Development staff work diligently to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rd.usda.gov/me.