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USDA Helps Improve Access to Rural Health Care in Minnesota

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date

Grants Will Benefit More Than 6,200 People in Rural Communities

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director in Minnesota Colleen Landkamer today announced that USDA is improving access to health care for nearly 6,200 people living in Lac Qui Parle, Lyon, Renville and Swift counties through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program.

“Investments in rural health care are absolutely invaluable,” Landkamer said. “Access to affordable, state-of-the-art health care can be challenging to provide in rural areas of our state, and investments made through USDA’s Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program help to bridge that gap.”

Appleton Area Health (AAH) is modernizing its telemedicine/telehealth capacity and replacing outdated equipment of its critical access facility in Appleton, Minnesota. The nearly $715,000 grant from USDA will help AAH update an aging health record system that no longer has technical support. This update, as well as the new equipment, will ensure that rural residents within Swift and Lac Qui Parle counties continue to have access to modern, affordable health care services.

Dawson Area Hospital, also known as Johnson Memorial Health Services (JMHS) will be using a $1 million grant to purchase new telemedicine software that will replace an obsolete, unserviceable electronic health records system. A modernized system is vital to providing high-quality health care services through streamlined medical reporting that is compatible with current software platforms, allowing JMHS to increase data-sharing capacity.

Island Living will be using a $54,000 grant to purchase and install equipment for an assisted living facility in the city of Bird Island. The new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system contains microbiological air cleaning and ionization technology needed to help kill airborne viruses and eliminate unwanted infectious materials that can travel throughout the entire facility through the air system. This improvement will help the facility better prepare for potential future viral pandemics.

Tracy Ambulance Service will use a nearly $92,000 grant to purchase an ambulance and related equipment in Tracy, Minnesota. The new vehicle provides a quality ventilation system and separate staff compartment for drivers, improving the safety of both staff and patient. These modern advancements will help to improve responsiveness, reliability, and preparedness for viral protection of residents in Lyon County.

These investments will help address regional rural health care challenges to build a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system for the Minnesota’s small towns and communities.

Background: Emergency Rural Health Care Grants

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021 to deliver immediate economic relief to people impacted by the pandemic. Within months after the Act’s passage, USDA responded quickly by making this funding available to ensure the long-term availability of rural health care services.

In August 2021, USDA made the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants available through the American Rescue Plan Act to help rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to health care services and nutrition assistance.

The assistance is helping provide immediate relief to support rural hospitals, health care clinics and local communities. USDA is administering the funds through Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program, which helps residents in rural areas build or improve essential community infrastructure and purchase or replace equipment needed for essential community services.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

To learn more about Community Facilities Program funding opportunities, contact your local USDA Rural Development office. Also see the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program Guidance Book for Applicants (PDF, 669 KB) for a detailed overview of the application process.

Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans 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, tribal and high-poverty areas.

Contact USDA Rural Development

Information on programs available through USDA Rural Development is available by visiting www.rd.usda.gov/mn. Stay current by following @RD_Minnesota on Twitter.

USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state to serve the 1.8 million residents living in rural Minnesota. Office locations include a state office in Alexandria, Baxter, Bemidji, Cambridge, Detroit Lakes, Faribault, Marshall, St. Paul, Thief River Falls, Willmar, and Worthington.

If you’d like to subscribe to Minnesota USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.