USDA Provides Funding to Increase Access to Educational and Health Care Services in Rural Areas

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Grants Will Also Support Opioid Treatment

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad today announced that USDA is awarding a nearly $120,000 grant for broadband infrastructure to increase access to job training and education services in southwestern Minnesota.

   “Access to broadband in rural areas is essential to the growth of these communities,” Finstad said. “Not only is it increasingly used for the expansion of healthcare services and business development, but it also connects rural America’s youth with wider education opportunities than ever before.”

   Rural Development funds will help Little Crow Telemedia Network and the River Valley Education District to provide technology and distance learning opportunities for their member districts. The distance learning network will offer more courses for high school students, such as college prep and advanced placement courses. This project will serve 19 school districts, two adult basic education sites, and the Upper Sioux Community. An estimated 10,000 rural students, 600 rural educators, 50 adult basic education students and more than 400 Upper Sioux Community tribal members will have access to educational and other services through this project.  

   This announcement is made in coordination with the announcement made by Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett that USDA is awarding grants for broadband projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas in 35 states.

   “Broadband technology helps provide career opportunities and deliver critical medical services to rural residents,” Hazlett said. “It allows rural hospitals to better diagnose and treat patients. It helps treat people who are struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders. It also helps bring jobs to rural areas.”

   USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. This program funds equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to advanced learning and specialized medical services.

   The grants are supporting projects in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

   Several recipients will use the grants to help address two of the nation’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling.

   Here are a few examples of projects USDA is supporting in other states:

  • Lincoln Community Hospital and Nursing Home is receiving a $265,622 grant to establish a telemedicine network between hospitals and clinics in Colorado serving more than 20,000 residents in Adams, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln and Phillips counties. Improved medical services include behavioral health, post-operative care and care management for chronic conditions. Mobile clinics will provide medical services at patients' homes and will provide access to specialty care and tele-stroke services.  Additionally, the telemedicine connections will help emergency departments at Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s behavioral health providers assess behavioral health issues more rapidly and move patients in crisis out of the departments and into more appropriate care settings.

  • Southern Tier Health Care Systems, Inc. in Olean, N.Y., is receiving a $132,899 grant to deploy telecommunications equipment to help train and certify emergency responders dealing with opioid overdoses. Southern Tier will connect to four end-user sites in Salamanca, Cuba, Franklin and Gerry. The project will support education for emergency response personnel at the Allegany Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department and at community service agencies in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

  • In North Carolina, Mission Healthcare Foundation, Inc. is receiving a $231,192 grant to help purchase video conferencing equipment. The project will link one hub and 11 end-user sites in 11 rural communities. It will provide telemedicine carts, digital stethoscopes and horus scopes to give rural residents better access to health services and specialty care.

  • Indiana’s East Central Educational Service Center is receiving a $498,261 grant to help purchase video conferencing equipment for two hub and 18 end-user sites in 13 communities. The project will link sites in Martin, Jasper, Newton, Randolph, Jennings and Fayette counties in Indiana with a site in Aroostook County, Maine. Users will gain access to new learning material, expertise and staff. 

   USDA’s DLT program has a strong record of supporting rural health care and educational programs. For example, in South Dakota, Horizon Health Care, Inc. has used four DLT grants during the last two decades to provide a range of health care services (including mental health) to people living in rural parts of the state. As a result, Horizon now offers preventative care and treatment for opioid addiction. Telemedicine is critical to providing quality care in South Dakota, where more than 40 percent of the population live in rural areas that lack access to critical medical services.

   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. For more information, visit

Last Modified: 01/19/2018