Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding to Improve Health and Safety, and Increase Educational Opportunities in Rural Communities

Press Release

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: June 6, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 52 distance learning and telemedicine projects that will increase access to health care and enhance educational opportunities in 29 states.

"Our rural communities need access to the latest educational and health care services to compete in the 21st Century," Vilsack said." The funding I am announcing today for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program will help ensure that rural citizens receive the same high-level, specialized medical care and educational services as enjoyed by their fellow citizens in urban areas."

The projects announced today total $14 million and include 19 distance learning projects, 32 telemedicine projects and one combined project. All will benefit rural counties. Nearly half of the total funding -- 45 percent -- will go to counties where the minority population is greater than 30 percent. Another 18 percent of this funding will benefit areas where the Native American population exceeds 30 percent.

Better health care services for rural Virginia: A $149,094 grant to the Appalachian College of Pharmacy will enable health officials to better manage chronic disease, specifically targeting diabetes and primary health needs in the southwest corner of the state. This award will allow the College of Pharmacy to team up with a rural hospital, health care providers and local pharmacies to offer more efficient, consistent and reliable delivery of healthcare for patients with chronic conditions.

Saving rural Wisconsin residents time and money: A $446,735 grant to Dean Health Systems in Madison will enable residents of seven counties in rural Wisconsin to use 12 telemedicine sites that will save nearly 13,000 hours of travel time, $302,940 in travel costs and prevent $448,272 in lost wages. The new telemedicine system will provide critical access to cardiology, pharmacy and dermatology services. The equipment also will be used to improve the coordination of disaster responses.

Opening up the world to school children in rural Colorado: The Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services is receiving a $271,774 grant to purchase distance learning equipment that 12 school districts will use to share classes interactively. The grant will also place new equipment into the elementary and middle schools, introducing distance learning to these grade levels for the first time. The Board will expand course offerings and professional development opportunities throughout the 12 school districts.

Since taking office, the Obama Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council -- chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- the President is committed to using Federal resources more efficiently to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.