Rural America uses USDA grants to address opioid abuse


The USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. Several recipients will use the grants to help address two of the nation’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling.

“Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in creating rural prosperity,” said Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett. “Connecting rural Americans to quality education and health care services is an innovative and important tool in our efforts to facilitate economic growth, job creation and quality of life in rural America.”

The program invests in equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to educational and health care services. These vital services are part of the foundation of a high quality of life and enable communities to overcome the effects of remoteness and low population density by connecting them to the rest of the world through high-speed internet.

The grants are supporting projects based in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

The USDA recognizes that modernizing healthcare access for such recovery resources is vital to addressing rural prosperity. Here are a few examples of projects the USDA is supporting this year:

  • Lincoln Community Hospital and Nursing Home is receiving a $265,622 grant to establish a telemedicine network between hospitals and clinics in Colorado serving more than 20,000 residents in Adams, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln and Phillips counties. Improved medical services include behavioral health, post-operative care and care management for chronic conditions. Mobile clinics will provide medical services at patients’ homes and will provide access to specialty care and tele-stroke services. Additionally, the telemedicine connections will help emergency departments at Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s behavioral health providers assess behavioral health issues more rapidly and move patients in crisis out of the departments and into more appropriate care settings.
  • Southern Tier Health Care Systems, Inc. in Olean, N.Y., is receiving a $132,899 grant to deploy telecommunications equipment to help train and certify emergency responders dealing with opioid overdoses. Southern Tier will connect to four end-user sites in Salamanca, Cuba, Franklin and Gerry. The project will support education for emergency response personnel at the Allegany Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department and at community service agencies in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

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. As Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue was selected to serve as chairman of the Task Force, which includes more than 22 federal agencies as well as local leaders, executive departments, and offices. Over the course of six months, Secretary Perdue travelled to 30 states to listen to the voice of rural America and gather recommendations from citizens, farmers, and business leaders throughout the country. He held countless meetings with partner Federal agencies, and consulted with industry experts.

In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

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