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USDA to Make Up to $1,769,746 Available to Improve Access to Telemedicine, Distance Learning for 13,100 People in Rural Louisiana

Darius Graham
Release Date
Oct 22, 2021

LOUISIANA, Oct. 22, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a significant expansion of access to high-speed internet, health care and educational services for millions of rural Americans nationwide. Today’s announcement continues to move forward President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda by prioritizing economic growth in rural America and investing in the backbone of our country – the middle class.

“For too long, the ‘digital divide’ has left too many people living in rural communities behind: unable to compete in the global economy and unable to access the services and resources that all Americans need,” Vilsack said. “As we build back better than we were before, the actions I am announcing today will go a long way toward ensuring that people who live or work in rural areas are able to tap into the benefits of broadband, including access to specialized health care, educational opportunities and the global marketplace. Rural people, businesses and communities must have affordable, reliable, high-speed internet so they can fully participate in modern society and the modern economy.”

Here in Louisiana, $1.7 million will be invested to further the state’s distance learning and telemedicine programs in rural communities to increase the education and health care resources available to our residents.

Homer Memorial Hospital will provide a telemedicine and distance learning network for Claiborne Memorial Medical Center located in the northwest Louisiana. Claiborne Parish is an extremely rural area with a 34 percent poverty rate and a median income of $27,303. Approximately 5,500 rural residents will benefit by the reduced absenteeism by both students, faculty, and staff; improved overall health and wellbeing to area children; identification and early treatment for students needing psychiatric treatment; and a reduction in nursing home residents' admissions to the hospital.

North Caddo Hospital Service District will provide telemedicine to 1,200 students in five local, rural schools through North Caddo Medical Center. The Louisiana schools are North Caddo High School, North Caddo Elementary School, Plain Dealing High School, Mooringsport Elementary School, and Herndon Magnet School. A registered nurse will be staffed at each school location with a telemedicine cart. A medical provider will evaluate students seeking care while off-site.

Oceans Acquisition, Inc. will purchase telemedicine equipment that will connect rural nursing facilities and the rural Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana Public Health Department (end-user sites) with Oceans medical facilities (hub sites) to provide mental health services through this telemedicine program. These services will include intake/assessment, individual therapy, group therapy and other services to 1,800 residents.  

Southern University and A&M College will engage rural Louisiana in distance learning through the Southern University Law Center. The center, along with its partnering end-user sites, aim to tackle issues experienced in their communities due to extreme rurality. The center will engage these communities in opioid abuse community counseling and educational programming, legal literacy clinics and programming, and business education and programming for small businesses, cottage industries and entrepreneurs hoping to boost their local economy. The courses and clinics offered are designed to specifically address the issues encountered by the communities in this project and are expected to positively impact 46,000 residents. 

Background: Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants

Vilsack also announced today a $50 million investment in 105 rural distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. These awards are being funded through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. This program helps fund distance learning and telemedicine services in rural areas to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable.

USDA’s distance learning and telemedicine investment includes a $387,000 grant to OSF Healthcare System to help establish a telehealth network for 107,000 rural residents in central Illinois. Additionally, UHS of Texoma, Inc. is receiving a $199,015 grant to implement a distance learning system to improve mental health services for 8,000 people in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.

To learn more about Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/telecommunications-programs/distance-learning-telemedicine-grants.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, 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. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.  

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.




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