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USDA Invests in the Expansion of Rural Education and Health Care Access

Melissa Roma
Release Date

USDA Invests in the Expansion of Rural Education and Health Care Access


Distance Learning and Telemedicine Investments will benefit 5.4 Million Rural Residents in 37 States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

   Harrisburg, Pa., Nov. 20, 2019 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy today announced that USDA is investing $42.5 million in 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories. USDA is providing the funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. These investments will benefit 5.4 million rural residents.

   “Distance learning and telemedicine make it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of economic, health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances,” LaVoy said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to partnering with rural communities to help them improve their quality of life, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

   Rural Development State Director Curt Coccodrilli today announced that Pennsylvania is investing over $2 million in 6 distance learning and telemedicine projects. “The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program can ensure rural residents and businesses have access to modern, 21st Century communications technologies that are necessary for sustainable economic and community development” Coccodrilli said.

   Below are examples in Pennsylvania of projects announced today:

  • Central Intermed Unit WT Branch Tech is receiving a grant of $499,516 that will enable Central Intermediate Unit 10 and the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 to provide interactive distance learning training to students at rural Appalachian high schools spread across six counties in Pennsylvania.  Thirteen high schools with a total of 5,580 students will be served.
  • Charles Cole Memorial Hospital is receiving a grant of $248,800 which will enable Charles Cole Memorial Hospital dba UPMC Cole to establish a telemedicine project to deliver remote medical services including substance abuse services. Six rural sites will be served in Cameron, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties.  The project will serve over 5,000 residents.
  • Geisinger Clinic will use a $486,287 grant to implement a new Telemedicine Project that will increase access to specialty care in Centre, Cumberland, Lycoming, Monroe, and Northumberland Pennsylvania. Additionally, the project will increase the telehealth capabilities of staff going into patients' homes to care for the chronically ill or children suffering from asthma. This project will serve a population of 3,690.
  • Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries is receiving a $65,540 grant to install a telemedicine project for bedside remote physician consultations. Service will be provided to Mifflin and Dauphin Pennsylvania.  The project will serve 372 residents and 258 skilled nursing clients.
  • Indiana Regional Medical Center Inc will use grant of $308,897 to install interactive video equipment that will allow approximately 2,700 rural Jefferson County residents to receive opioid treatment at Punxsutawney Area Hospital.  
  • Potter County Education Council is receiving a $427,280 grant to use distance learning to collaborate with Potter County government and state agencies.  Users will attain professional certifications, and schools teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.  Distance learning equipment will be placed at nine locations in McKean and Potter Counties in Pennsylvania. An estimated 4,558 students will be served.

   Applicants eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

   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. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

   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/pa.


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