USDA awards over $29 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants

Washington 05 December 2005Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner has announced the award of 79 Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants, which will provide improved educational and medical services to residents of 36 states. The grants total over $29,4 million. Of the 79 projects selected, 35 provide funding for medical service improvements and 44 promote educational opportunities.

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The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Programme is designed to enhance educational and health care services in rural America. This year 227 grant applications were received and 162 were found to meet programme eligibility requirements. The 79 successful applicants were selected from that list. During the past five years, USDA's Rural Development has invested over $4,6 billion in telecommunications programmes across America.

The funds awarded will assist a wide range of facilities. In Polk County, Missouri, for example, a grant of $432.265 will be used to link Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar to 16 rural health clinics and five long-term care facilities in rural areas, serving a population of 22.000. The Ozark Health Foundation in Clinton, Arkansas, will receive a grant of $420.505 to integrate records handling between a hospital, two agencies, nine clinics and a nursing home. Both of those projects involve the deployment or expansion of Wide Area Networks.

United States Senator Dick Lugar was notified that two Indiana projects were included in the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture. St. Vincent Health will receive $205.706 and the Southern DuBois County School Corporation LEA will receive $389.599. The Richard Lugar staff is participating in a working group to study telemedicine and ways to improve access in Indiana.

Educational facilities will benefit as well. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will receive a grant of $304.542 to provide distance learning services to children enrolled in the Head Start programme at 23 sites spread across 15.000 square miles of southeastern Oklahoma. The system will also provide educational opportunities for Head Start staff and all adults in the communities served. In northwest New Mexico, $486.100 in grant funds will be used to provide distance learning equipment and multi-media computer labs to 15 schools, including four high schools. The project will serve over 5000 students in a three county area.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development has invested over $63 billion since the beginning of the Bush Administration to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. Over 1,1 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments.

A complete list of the successful applicants can be seen at the USDA Rural Development Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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