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USDA Announces Funding to Increase Access to Education, Workforce Training and Health Care Opportunities in Rural Communities

Lisa Sharp
Release Date

November 1, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue yesterday announced that USDA is awarding grants for 128 projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas.

   “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. More than 4.5 million residents in 40 states and three territories will benefit from the funding.

Below are summaries of some of USDA’s investments impacting rural West Virginia communities:

  • CAMC Health Education & Research Institute is being awarded $163,223 to help provide a continuum of care to the patients in 46 facilities in 16 rural Appalachian counties in West Virginia, Southern Ohio and Eastern Kentucky who suffer from chronic kidney disease. The new network of interactive healthcare will help manage and prevent kidney failure and monitor the other diseases that contribute or accelerate kidney damage. The network will help patients, from a population of approximately 180,000, throughout the kidney disease treatment spectrum, from education on disease management and dialysis, to post kidney transplant care and consultation.


  • CHANGE Inc. is receiving $500,000 to purchase and install telemedicine equipment at eight locations in Hancock, Marshall and Brooke counties in West Virginia and in Jefferson County, Ohio. It will bring behavioral health services to school-based health centers and to rural communities with a total population of 42,260 people. CHANGE, Inc. will address behavioral health issues by establishing remote telemedicine links to psychiatrists or other specialty providers. This grant will remove barriers of distance and cost and will provide dramatically increased access to health care where it is needed the most.


  • The Toronto, Ohio City School District is being awarded $500,000 to help purchase distance learning equipment to create opioid health education, treatment, and prevention programs for families. The project will implement a comprehensive opioid treatment and misuse prevention program. The hub site will be in Weirton, W.Va., with two end user sites in Toronto. The District will have three partners and sites: CHANGE, Inc. in Newell, WV, Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, Ohio, and FFA Camps in Carrollton, Ohio. Families will also have access to health care onsite, supported by additional healthcare professionals via telecommunications. Students will also have access to dual credit offerings from Eastern Gateway Community College and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics coursework and counseling workshops from Ohio FFA Camps. Based on the communities served, this project has the potential to impact a population of 45,746.

“We are excited about the opportunities that this funding will provide for rural West Virginians,” said USDA Rural Development West Virginia State Director Kris Warner.  “These funds will provide access to critical healthcare and educational resources that are vital to supporting a good quality of life and economic viability.”    

    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 facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.