Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers visited the Delta region to tour Coahoma Community College and announce four USDA grants totaling $2.4 million for health care enhancements in rural Mississippi. The grants are being provided through the Delta Health Care Services Grant Program, which was established in 2008 and reauthorized as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“The grants we are announcing today will be used to improve technology and education services, like electronic health records and telehealth capabilities, giving Delta residents better access to the latest in health care delivery systems,” Rikkers said. “The Delta Health Care Grant program allows the USDA to partner with local groups like these to address the critical health needs of rural Mississippi, removing barriers to positive health outcomes.”
While in Mississippi, Rikkers visited the campus of Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale to tour its health facilities. Last year, the College received a $728,000 USDA Delta Health Care Services Grant to purchase telehealth equipment, which connects nurses in small, rural health units for consultations with primary or specialty care providers at larger health care hubs via telecommunications. The telehealth equipment was placed in five school districts and four rural health clinics in northwestern Mississippi and is made possible through a partnership between Coahoma Community College, Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center, Inc. and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The Delta Health Care Services program provides grants to academic research institutes, institutions of higher education and economic development entities in the Delta region. The program was created to address unmet health needs of the approximately 10 million people who live in the Delta region, which includes 252 counties and parishes in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Recipients can use the grants for a variety of health-related activities, including mobile health units, telemedicine and training for health care professionals. The minimum grant is $50,000; the maximum is $1 million.
In addition to Coahoma Community College, the following three health care entities are receiving grants today through USDA’s Delta Health Care Services Grant program:
Delta Health Alliance – $1 million grant to develop a community-based initiative to bring updated electronic health records systems to the Mississippi Delta and increase access to health care.
University of Mississippi Medical Center– $608,000 grant to establish a telehealth network providing access to specialty care services, continuing education and community health/wellness education sessions.
Blue Mountain College – $93,000 grant to expand a health care training facility and educate health professionals and students.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has provided $6.1 million for 13 Delta Health Care Services Grants.
In Mississippi alone, USDA invested nearly $20 billion between 2009 and 2014. This includes more than $2.8 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $1.8 billion in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and $849 million through conservation efforts to protect Mississippi’s land, water and air resources. In 2016, we will continue to build on that investment to support the farmers, growers and rural small businesses driving the rural economy forward, carry out record conservation efforts, facilitate groundbreaking research, promote new markets for rural products, and provide a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply for Mississippi families.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.