• Brandon Colvin

USDA announces $3.3M in telehealth grants to Alabama orgs

This week the United States Department of Agriculture announced a $42 million investment in distance learning and telemedicine infrastructure aimed at improving education and health outcomes. Five Alabama organizations will be receiving funds as part of the initiative.

The USDA's investment is expected to benefit 5 million rural residents across the country. $24 million of the total $4.3 million allocated for the project will be provided through the CARES Act.

In a press release, the department explained its rationale for focusing the initiative on rural communities., highlighting "higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance."

The following five Alabama-based organizations will receive USDA funding:

  • The University of Alabama will receive $916,948

This Rural Development investment will be used to connect 23 ambulances and seven hospitals in eight rural counties in west-central Alabama. This project will create a network of ambulances equipped with telemedicine services to relay patient data to emergency physicians and provide more efficient care for patients.

  • Lauderdale County Board of Education will receive $245,618

This Rural Development investment will be used to install distance learning systems in Lauderdale County elementary and secondary schools and at the Board of Education. The board will purchase mobile carts, bridging software and wireless access points to create a remote teaching system. The distance learning system will enable teachers to provide lessons and educational opportunities to more students.

  • Physicians Care of Clarke (Clarke County) will receive $744,150

This Rural Development investment will be used to create a telehealth system across primary health care, school-based health care and administrative sites serving rural residents in Clarke, Marengo, Wilcox and Monroe counties. Residents in these counties have a disproportionate rate of heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes compared to the state and national rates. Many are geographically isolated and lack transportation to in-person medical care. This project will help install telemedicine carts at each clinic to capture diagnostic information and transmit it to specialist physicians at any site on the network. Videoconferencing equipment also will be installed to provide clinical supervision and consultation.

  • The University of Montevallo will receive $580,308

This Rural Development investment will be used to establish a telemedicine system for University of Montevallo (UM) of Shelby County to provide access to mental health through its Community Counseling Clinic. UM will install telemedicine end-user units in high schools in Bibb, Dallas and Talladega counties to offer telemental health services to students, teachers and community members. UM also will be able to offer distance education for professional educators and instructional leaders through the College of Education and Human Development and for high school students through dual-enrollment courses.

  • Cahaba Medical Care Foundation will receive $789,150

This Rural Development investment will be used to fund teleconferencing equipment in Bibb, Perry, Chilton and Jefferson counties in central Alabama. It will enable the Central Medical Care Foundation to offer distance learning for its family medicine residency programs, which help medical school graduates achieve medical licensure or board certification. In addition, the system will provide telemedicine services to help accommodate the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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