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Nearly $1.5 Million in USDA Rural Development Funding Increases Access to STEM Education and Opioid-Related Health Care Opportunities in Rural Iowa

Darin Leach
Des Moines
Release Date

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced that USDA is awarding grants for 128 projects to increase access to job training (PDF, 351 KB), educational and health care services in rural areas. Five of the projects are assisting rural Iowa communities.

“Empowering rural Americans with access to services for quality of life and economic development is critical to rural prosperity,” Secretary Perdue said. “Distance learning and telemedicine technology bridges the gap that often exists between rural communities and essential education, workforce training and health care resources.”

USDA is awarding $39.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program with nearly $1.5 million being awarded to projects in Iowa. More than 4.5 million residents in 40 states and three territories will benefit from the funding.

Summaries of USDA’s investments in rural Iowa communities include:

  • Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville is receiving a $499,975 grant to upgrade distance learning telecommunications equipment at four college campus sites located in Emmet, Pala Alto, Kossuth and Clay Counties, benefitting a total population of 27,057 people. The enhancements will dramatically improve the classroom experience for students, including improved video capabilities, improved audio quality and updated assistive-learning devices for students who have hearing impairments. The upgraded system will allow the college to offer higher-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, along with other general education classes, to students at any campus.

  • Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion is receiving a $52,170 grant to purchase and install telemedicine equipment to connect health care providers at five sites located in Wright, Dallas and Hancock Counties benefitting a total population of 8,355 people. This project will be used to connect a local school and distant clinics to the main hospital locations so that a doctor is always available to patients without them having to drive. Many of the opioid misuse patients seen in the system rate travel and distance as their greatest barriers to seeking care. This project would directly address both of those factors and make it easier for those patients to receive treatment.

  • Westwood Community School District in Sloan is receiving a $499,733 grant to provide a distance learning network that will offer educational opportunities to the 11,538 residents served. The distance learning network will provide access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) oriented and advanced placement coursework, as well as dual enrollment courses that provide college credit to high school students.

  • Clarke County Hospital in Osceola is receiving a $314,743 grant to upgrade and extend the video distance learning network in southern Iowa to support the hospital’s efforts to address childhood trauma. The hospital will use distance learning for professional development and educational programs for students, family members and the community at large. Eleven schools will be linked to the network, serving a population of 9,986.

  • Mercy Foundation of Des Moines is receiving a $92,826 grant to assist Mercy Foundation of Des Moines in addressing opioid misuse through the purchase and installation of interactive telemedicine equipment allowing access to two high-need specialties, cardiology and psychiatry. This project implements a telehealth network at nine healthcare facilities in nine southern Iowa counties to increase access to healthcare resources delivering treatment to opioid dependent persons, opioid training to medical professionals and training psychiatric residents in tele-psychology. The project will serve more than 6,189 rural patients annually.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

Contact USDA Rural Development

Information on programs available through USDA Rural Development is available by visiting www.rd.usda.gov/ia or by calling (515) 284-4663.

USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state to serve the 1.7 million Iowans living in rural communities and areas.  Office locations include a State Office in Des Moines, along with Area Offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly.