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By Erika Archie/Public Information Officer Rural Development – USDA
TEMPLE – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $72 million in grants to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. These investments will benefit more than 12 million rural residents. State Director Edd Hargett announced this includes five projects in Texas totaling $3.5 million.
“Increasing access to telemedicine and distance learning is critical to building healthier and more resilient rural communities,” said Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Paired with our monumental effort to expand high-speed broadband access in rural America, these investments will help rural health care centers and education institutions reach more rural residents with essential services and opportunities. Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
“USDA is committed to partnering with local leaders to provide the tools and resources needed in order to ensure rural prosperity in Texas today and in the future,” said Edd Hargett, Texas State Director for USDA Rural Development. “We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with these partners to enhance rural economic development relationships and build stronger communities.”
USDA is funding 116 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program helps health care and education institutions buy the equipment and software necessary to deploy distance-learning and telemedicine services to rural residents.
Here are the projects in Texas announced today:
- Education Service Center, Region 17, located in Lubbock, Texas, will use a $1 million grant to help participating school districts address access issues for both distance learning and telemedicine applications. Providing support for both areas has been identified as necessary to enrich the educational resources available to school populations in rural areas within Region 17. The project will increase e-Connectivity for rural students, support a rural workforce, and improve quality of life through telemedicine services, and provide support for treatment for general health and behavioral health areas.
(Floydada Collegiate Independent School District and Lockney Independent School District are in Education Service Center, Region 17 along with other area schools.)
- Epic Charter School is receiving a $969,327 grant to link urban schools in Oklahoma and Texas with rural schools, students and community partners in both states. The school will provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses, Career and Technical Education (CTE) certifications, Advance Placement (AP)/concurrent college courses, professional development and opioid education services. Interactive video conferencing equipment also will be installed.
- Palacios Community Medical Center will use a $812,500 grant to connect rural residents with virtual access to health care in a clinic, institution (Emergency Room/inpatient) and/or home setting. Through this connectivity, rural residents will have virtual access to their hometown providers in “real-time” via a telecom connection provided by Palacios Community Medical Center.
- LCHD Foundation is receiving a $585,388 grant to deploy interactive telemedicine carts and equipment to 20 sites across Lynn, Garza, Borden, Lubbock and Dawson counties. This project will provide health services to at-risk populations, including substance use disorder (SUD) individuals and patients that live in very remote locations.
- Navarro College will use a $132,800 grant to involve three strategies to improve distance learning for the residents in rural communities located in five counties. Strategies include implementing video conferencing for dual credit students at rural high schools, establishing the Navarro College Mexia Campus as a hub for rural students to participate in distance learning programs, and installing a laptop kiosk at the Mexia State Supported Living Center to increase access for employees of the facility to Navarro College courses and programs.
To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.