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

Broadband connections
Contact: Phil Eggman
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Three Projects will be funded supporting programs in Rural Washington State

HUGO, Colo., Jan. 19, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced 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.

Projects to be supported by USDA in Washington State include:

  • University of Washington in King County with a $500,000 grant to purchase telemedicine equipment for the college’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) tele-dentistry program, which trains students to be placed in rural dental practices after they graduate. The project will benefit one hub and 11 end-user sites in 12 communities throughout Washington and Montana by providing tele-dentistry mobile carts, intraoral cameras, video conferencing equipment and software. RIDE was developed to address oral health workforce needs in rural and underserved communities. RIDE students are sent on rural service learning rotations for five to six months during their four years of dental school. While all dental students go on five-week rotations, only RIDE students are required to do so in rural locations for a prolonged period of time. The equipment purchased will allow the students to continue their education while serving in the rural communities.

  • Sunnyside Community Hospital Association will receive a $68,270 grant to purchase equipment to enable citizens of Benton, Grant and Yakima counties to get access to the latest telemedicine technology. Sunnyside proposes six hubs and six end-user sites. The hubs are specialty clinics spread across a 50-mile expanse of Interstate 82, from Yakima in the northwest corner of the service area to Prosser in the southeast corner. The specialties selected for inclusion are those that local primary care providers and office staff noted as the highest need and/or most difficult for patients to access. The six end-user sites include three primary care clinics, a rural community hospital and two elementary schools.

  • Rural Development will award Confluence Health with a $279,620 grant to help purchase telemedicine equipment to expand its capacity to deliver clinical care, behavioral health services and medical training in North Central Washington. A 2016 community needs assessment for the region determined that access to behavioral health services was among the highest areas of need. The project will benefit two hubs and five end-user sites in Grant and Okanogan counties, improving communication between rural patients and clinical care providers, and give medical personnel more access to continuing education programs.

"USDA's DLT program helps fund an effective tool for treating patients when experts otherwise would be unavailable,” said Kirk Pearson, Washington State Director for USDA Rural Development. “Hospitals and schools are able to successfully use telecommunications to deliver specialized care to rural residents and we are proud to help bring these enhancements to Washington State rural 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

Last Modified: 01/19/2018