A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

USDA announces grants for education, workforce training, health care opportunities in rural Kentucky

Hilda Legg, USDA Rural Development State Director, has announced that USDA Rural Development is awarding grants for three projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural Kentucky.

“This critically important education and telemedicine technology enables our grantees to reach more individuals in need, in a more timely and cost-effective way,” Legg said. “These grants will enable our community partners to further serve rural Kentuckians, whether it be those suffering from opioid addiction or individuals seeking higher education.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also announced a nationwide investment for the program.

“Empowering rural Americans with access to services for quality of life and economic development is critical to rural prosperity,” Perdue said. “Distance learning and telemedicine technology bridge the gap that often exists between rural communities and essential education, workforce training and health care resources.”

USDA is awarding $37 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program nationwide. Of the 128 grants throughout the nation, Kentucky received three awards totaling more than $830,000. The projects announced will help combat the opioid crisis and other substance misuse issues.

Below are summaries of some of USDA’s investments in rural communities:

• The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation will receive a $337,327 grant to purchase interactive video equipment and provide a comprehensive, evidence-based distance learning environment for rural health care facilities in Hazard, Carlisle, Owingsville and Williamstown. The project will train healthcare professionals, behavioral health professionals, and peer recovery specialists in evidence-based practices related to the prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support of opioid use disorder in individuals. The project will offer individuals and families a comprehensive, evidence-based support model that will enhance outcomes for individuals in treatment and recovery, including those in Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid use disorder. It is projected a population of 11,921 will be served by this investment.

• The University of Pikeville, Inc. will receive a $128,675 grant to expand its distance learning facilities with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focus benefiting 320 high school students. This program will deliver a career- and business-driven curriculum to high school students throughout a seven-county service area in rural Eastern Kentucky. It will provide computers, video conferencing units, software and infrastructure to allow to focus on STEM-based education at 16 end-user sites, allowing students at multiple schools to interact with one another as well as with the individuals leading the session.

• Big Sandy Health Care, Inc. will receive a $370,875 grant to purchase telemedicine carts for school and clinic sites. The project will provide primary care, specialty care, opioid education, counseling, and treatment via telemedicine and distance learning in five school sites and five clinic sites in a four-county area of Eastern Kentucky. The health center sites will serve as both hub and end-user sites. The clinicians based at these sites will provide educational sessions through distance learning technology and will provide direct medical care via telemedicine to students and school staff. Also, patients at the clinics will participate in educational sessions through distance learning technology and will also receive telemedicine visits from specialty providers not available at the clinics. The project will benefit 3,250 students, faculty and patients.

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, 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. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

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 healthcare; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

From USDA Rural Development

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