USDA Invests $987,745 in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Projects

Name
Kelly Clark
Phone
City
Carson City
Release Date
Dec 17, 2019

Enhances Rural Nevadans Access to Healthcare, Training and Pharmacy Network

CARSON CITY, Nev., Dec. 17, 2019 - Last month, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $42.5 million investment nationwide in 133 distance learning and telemedicine (DLT) projects, including $987,745 for three telehealth projects in Nevada. Today Phil Cowee, USDA Rural Development Nevada State Director, announced the three awardees in Carson City at one of the recipient sites with a telehealth demonstration.

“These projects will expand access to health care and behavioral services across 14 counties, enhance distance learning for health professionals, and provide access to in-school health care via 2-way video calls,” said Cowee. “This is a great use of technology –to expand access to health care for those who live and work in rural Nevada.”

The DLT Program is one of five broadband programs that USDA administers through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to finance modern broadband and telecommunications infrastructure.

The goal is to help bridge the “digital divide” and ensure rural residents and businesses have access to 21st Century communications technologies needed to compete in a global economy.

The following awardees were announced at today’s event:

Nevada Health Centers, Inc., (NVHC) a nonprofit, federally qualified health center, was approved for $489, 070 to provide distance learning for health professionals and increase telemedicine access to quality health care for 63,000 Nevadans. The project will connect 10 urban health centers with seven rural schools so that an NVHC provider can provide primary care and behavioral health services directly to students at rural schools.

NVHC will also connect its Community Health Pharmacy in Carson City to six rural health centers in Austin, Carlin, Elko, Jackpot, West Wendover, and Amargosa. Using a wide area network and Remote Dispensing System will improve efficiency and accuracy of the medication dispensing process, reduce errors, and add a pharmacist consultation service via telehealth for NVHC patients in these remote underserved areas.

Finally, NVHC will be connecting providers from NVHC’s ten (10) urban health centers in Carson City, Henderson, and Las Vegas to their seven rural health centers in Austin, Carlin, Elko, Jackpot, West Wendover, Amargosa, and Virginia City to provide new and improved primary care and behavioral health services via telehealth.

In addition, Renown Health Foundation (Renown) will receive a $228,300 federal grant to enhance an existing high-definition telehealth network at 12 Nevada sites. Three new locations will be established as telehealth user sites at remote tribal reservations. Over 264,000 residents in a 9-county region of northern Nevada will benefit (Churchill, Douglas, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, and Washoe).  Renown’s telehealth network—which includes access to care providers and specialists, support groups and distance learning—increases access to care, saves transportation time and costs and improves patient outcomes.

Hazel Health, a company that provides school health services, was approved for $270,375 in federal grant funds to expand healthcare access for Nevada children through their school telehealth program. Hazel will partner with school nurses at nine rural Nevada schools to provide expanded in-school medical services. The goal is to improve student health and reduce absenteeism by giving schools instant access to medical professionals at school using 2-way video calls. Counties proposed to benefit from the grant funding include Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Mineral, Pershing, Storey and White Pine.

In addition to the DLT Program, other RUS funding is available through the ReConnect Program (broadband deployment in underserved rural areas); the Rural Broadband Access Loan (construct, improve or acquire facilities and equipment); the Community Connect Grant (to develop high-speed internet services at community centers in rural areas); and the Broadband Infrastructure Loan Program (loans to telecommunications companies to expand phone and broadband services in communities of 5,000 or fewer).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. With a portfolio of $228 billion, this agency's assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; 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/nv.