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 28 states.
“Broadband technology can help provide career opportunities and help deliver critical medical services to rural residents,” Hazlett said. “It allows rural hospitals to better diagnose and treat patients. It can help treat people who are struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders. It can also help bring jobs to rural areas.”
Dr. Carrie Castille, USDA Rural Development Louisiana State Director, emphasized the need to address access to better healthcare service, professional development opportunities for providers, and education for patients, to reduce hospital readmissions in unserved and underserved 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. Four Louisiana projects are among those funded.
RKM Primary Care will use a $298,100 grant to help fund a fixed-site telemedicine project in four of the most rural and low-income parishes in Louisiana: Livingston, West Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa and Tensas. These parishes have disproportionate percentages of vulnerable populations (the young, the elderly and minorities). They have shortages of health care professionals and a high percentage of uninsured residents. This telemedicine project will connect patients to behavioral health and specialty care providers at remote sites, using interactive videoconferencing. It will also connect rural health providers with professional development opportunities, so they may continue to hone their skills without having to leave their rural communities.
Lafayette General Health Systems, Inc. will use a $311,356 grant to help Lafayette General Health Systems, Inc. expand the South Louisiana Telehealth Network. Hubs will be established in Lafayette, Breaux Bridge, Crowley and Kaplan to connect 30 end-user sites in Arcadia, Vermillion, Evangeline, St. Martin, St. Mary, Iberia and St. Landry parishes. Lafayette General Health and its partners will train registered nurses to improve access to medical care, and improve health outcomes. The expanded telehealth network will serve public schools, community college campuses and government agencies in multiple parishes across South Louisiana.
Winn Community Health Center, Inc. will use a $277,672 grant to help support the North Central Louisiana Telemedicine Program at the Winn Community Health Center. The project will connect to nine school-based health clinics and two community-based health centers in Winn, Grant and Bienville parishes. The project will enable teleconsulting by qualified practitioners to improve the health outcomes of residents in extremely rural, low-resourced, and high-poverty communities.
Franklin Parish Hospital Service District No.1 is receiving a $111,794 grant to help the Franklin Medical Center purchase telemedicine equipment to provide enhanced telemedicine services. The project will provide interactive audio/video equipment, a terminal server, tablet computers, transportable exam stations and care coordination software. Three end-user sites will have expanded communications capabilities that will enable the Franklin Telemedicine Network to provide expanded access to specialists. The Franklin Medical Center's Services Coordination Team will educate providers regarding the benefits of care coordination through the network and will deploy the program. The project will reach patients discharged with chronic diseases or conditions, including cardiac health issues, making them high risk for future readmission. Education will be provided to patients in their homes to ensure care goals are met. Patients will be monitored to prevent a reoccurrence of their original reason for medical care.
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.