Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $1.2 million in virtual access to job training, educational and health care opportunities for more than 125,000 rural Alaskans.
“Under Secretary Sonny Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in improving quality of life and building prosperity in rural places through innovation,” Hazlett said. “Distance learning and telemedicine technology bridges the gap between rural communities and essential opportunities for education, workforce training and health care.”
USDA is partnering with three Alaska organizations with funding from the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The funding can be used to link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another.
Hazlett announced the awards in Anchorage during a visit to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Below are summaries of USDA’s investments:
- The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is receiving $499,620 to deliver opioid-related treatment and educational services to health care providers, educators and people who misuse opioids. Equipment will be provided to 131 sites among 13 tribal health organizations serving 116,760 rural residents. It will increase the capacity of tribal health organizations to access opioid-related distance education and will allow more providers to join a statewide videoconferencing network for telehealth services.
- The Alaska Gateway School District is receiving $144,665 to implement an interactive distance learning program. The district serves 400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in a 28,000-square-mile area. Interactive distance education will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula. Also, a unified, district-wide learning schedule will be developed. Teachers will be able to leverage expertise from all member schools to improve the quality of education and better prepare students for post-secondary life. Almost 95 percent of the district's students come from low-income families. Many students move between schools often and transfer to schools in larger towns to take advantage of better educational opportunities.
- The North Slope Borough School District is receiving $500,000 to purchase and install video conferencing equipment at 18 sites. The project will connect teachers and students at remote locations in a nearly 95,000-square-mile area in northern Alaska. Many of the rural communities are accessible only by plane. The project will support adult learners and students in kindergarten through 12th grade. A distance learning partnership with Ilisagvik College will enable students to take Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes as well as workforce development and college courses. This project will benefit more than 6,800 rural residents.
- The North Slope Borough School District is receiving $117,152 to link residents, teachers and students to counselors offering assistance to address the misuse of opioids and other substances. Teachers will learn techniques to deal with bullying in schools and will learn crisis management and de-escalation skills. Distance learning technology also will be used for professional development courses. Students and residents will have access to speech therapy, which is currently unavailable in the North Slope. Access to family and behavioral health counseling, suicide prevention, and drug, alcohol and tobacco awareness will be provided to area residents. The district has approximately 2,100 students.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
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 facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.