Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett recently announced that USDA is investing in e-connectivity which will provide virtual access to job training, educational, and health care opportunities for rural areas of 35 states, including Alabama.
“Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in creating rural prosperity,” Hazlett said. “Connecting rural Americans to quality education and health care services is an innovative and important tool in our efforts to facilitate economic growth, job creation and quality of life in rural America.”
Nationwide 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.
According to USDA Rural Development State Director Chris Beeker, USDA is supporting three projects in Alabama:
- The Bibb County Healthcare Authority is receiving a $480,706 grant to help purchase distance learning and telemedicine equipment to provide enhanced medical and teaching services. The project will benefit one hub and eight end-user sites in three communities by providing computer servers, video conferencing units, laptops and software. Bibb Medical Center facilities will be able to access remote resources, including trauma and specialty care, along with continuing medical education. This project will also provide health and wellness education to residents at the county's assisted-living community and provide increased access to clinical care for inmates at the county jail. Bibb County Schools will be able to create new learning opportunities for their students and professional development for their teachers. They will be able to share resources and provide career technical courses, advanced math, music and reading intervention. The distance learning technology will also be utilized for adult education.
- The University of Alabama at Birmingham is receiving a $495,877 grant that will be used to bring telemedicine capacity to Pickens County. The telemedicine equipment will provide a direct, two-way link between Pickens County ambulances and the Pickens County Medical Center's Emergency Department. Medical oversight training will also be provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health's State EMS program.
- The University of Alabama is receiving a $128,664 grant that will help establish a telehealth network to connect the University to various hospitals and medical centers across the state. The network will connect patients and providers to deliver telemedicine programs across the medical spectrum, from low-acuity ailments to electronic intensive care units, telestroke care, rare genetic diseases, transplant care and pediatric specialties. The network also will be used for professional training and continuing education.
“We are pleased to partner with these recipients to expand healthcare services and educational opportunities to individuals and families living in rural areas of our state,” said Beeker. “Having access to these essential services locally will contribute to an improved quality of life in these communities.”
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 www.rd.usda.gov.