Hilda Legg, USDA Rural Development State Director, announced today that USDA is awarding grants for broadband projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas across Kentucky.
“High-speed broadband connectivity is critical infrastructure needed today in every aspect of our daily lives,” Legg said. “The $1.9 million in grants will improve healthcare services, educational opportunities, and provide economic growth in rural Kentucky. These four projects will enable our partner organizations to further serve rural residents, especially those suffering from opioid addiction and others needing specialized care.”
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.
Of the 72 grants throughout the nation, Kentucky received four awards totaling nearly $2 million. Several recipients will use the grants to help address two of the state’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling.
Rural Development funds will help Grace Community Health Center, d/b/a Grace Health, purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive telemedicine services. Using telemedicine will expand access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including opioid addiction, which has increased significantly in the service area. The project will benefit one hub and 21 end-user sites in nine communities by providing computer servers, video conferencing units and software to allow health care providers, counselors and patients to connect and communicate without the need for extensive travel.
USDA will help finance a distance learning project at Berea College to connect 19 sites in 15 counties in southeastern Kentucky. The project will expand workforce training and continuing education opportunities for school-age students and adult learners. It also will help the College’s Partners for Education program, which coordinates school-based and other services to improve education outcomes in Eastern Kentucky.
Hazard Community Technical College (HCTC) grant money will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to provide education and telemedicine services for students, health care providers and patients. HCTC will connect to 30 health care providers, including a regional ambulance service, to improve specialized care to students and low-income patients. HCTC is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in southeastern Kentucky with campuses in Hazard, Jackson and Hyden.
Rural Development funds will help the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive telehealth services. The organization and its project partners will address the need for mental health and substance abuse services in Kentucky, where the demand for treatment to painkiller addiction has increased 900% during the last decade. The project will benefit two hubs and 22 end-user sites in 13 communities. It will provide computer servers, mobile telemedicine carts and software so patients do not have to travel great distances to see specialists and mental health counselors.
USDA’s DLT program has a strong record of supporting rural health care and educational programs in Kentucky. For example, in 2016, Baptist Health Foundation Corbin Inc. received a grant to establish a telemedicine network that connects clinical specialists at the Baptist Health Corbin and Grace CHC Pineville clinics to 10 school-based health centers as well as two Baptist Health primary care sites in rural Kentucky. Also, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation received a USDA grant to provide a telemedicine network for greater access to primary care services, behavioral health, and other specialty 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 www.rd.usda.gov.