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Telemedicine Programs Feature Prominently in Latest USDA DLT Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest DLT grants, totaling almost $24 million, include dozens of telemedicine programs addressing everything from behavioral health to opioid abuse.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Federal officials are targeting telemedicine programs to improve mental health counseling and tackle the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic in the latest round of Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants.

In all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing 72 grants worth almost $24 million to programs in 28 states through the DLT Grant Program. Many of the  grants continue a trend over the past few years of financing rural telemedicine and telehealth projects that create networks for pushing healthcare services out to underserved populations and the practitioners who treat them.

“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,” Anne Hazlett, the USDA’s Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, said in a press release.

Aside from programs targeting behavioral health and opioid abuse, telemedicine projects included in the grant program cover a wide range of uses, including obstetrics, labor and delivery and post-partum care, school- and prison-based telehealth, telehealth programs for people with developmental disabilities, remote patient monitoring, teledentistry, telepharmacy and telestroke.

Those grants focusing on telemedicine are as follows:

READ MORE: What Telemedicine, Telehealth Resource Centers Offer to Providers

In Alaska, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is getting $484,632 to expand its video-based telemedicine platform to include behavioral health specialty care, such as addiction care and psychiatry, to 111 communities, delivered through telemedicine carts.

In Alabama, the University of Alabama is getting $128,664 to create a telemedicine platform to connect the Pickens County Medical Center Emergency Department with local ambulances. The Bibb County Healthcare Authority, meanwhile, is getting $480,706 to enhance telehealth programs offered by Bibb Medical Center to eight sites in three communities. And the University of Alabama at Birmingham is getting $495,877 to create a telehealth network connecting UAB to hospitals and medical centers across the state.

In Arizona, Flagstaff Medical Center is getting $249,601 to send five telemedicine carts to new sites, upgrade existing carts at 10 sites and purchase 89 remote patient monitoring devices for programs in isolated tribal communities in central and northern parts of the state.

In California, the Institute for Telehealth is getting $325,665 to launch a telemedicine hub in Placer County to serve 33 sites in 32 communities in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.

In Colorado, Lincoln County Community Hospital and Nursing Home is getting $265,622 to create a telemedicine network linking hospitals and clinics for more than 20,000 residents in five counties, offering such services as behavioral health, post-operative care and care management for chronic conditions. The program will also support remote patient monitoring programs at patients’ homes and connect Lincoln Memorial’s behavioral health providers to emergency departments for emergency consults.

READ MORE: Telepsychiatry Opens a New Window into Behavioral Healthcare

In Georgia, the Augusta University Research Institute is getting $310,950 to establish an emergency telehealth network in rural parts of the state, connecting the institute to five health systems. The network will also link the emergency departments to Augusta University Medical Center and provide 12-lead EKG machines to three ambulances based at Washington County Regional Medical Center.

In Illinois, the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is getting $252,673 to connect the hospital to 20 hospital and clinics across the state. The program will enable those hospitals to connect with Lurie Children’s Hospital’s emergency department for trauma and emergency care consults. Also, Clay County Hospital is getting $58,935 to purchase telemedicine equipment to link its three ambulances and larger specialized medical facilities for emergency cardiac care.

In Kentucky, Hazard Community and Technical College is getting $449,031 to create a telemedicine network linking 30 healthcare providers, including an ambulance service, to specialized care for students and low-income patients in the Appalachian foothills. In addition, Grace Community Health Center is getting $496,081 to launch a telemedicine platform to offer mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including opioid addiction treatment, to 21 locations in nine communities. Also, the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization is getting $495,851 to provide mental health and substance abuse services through a telemedicine platform to 22 sites in 13 communities.

In Louisiana, RKM Primary Care is getting $298,100 to launch a telemedicine program offering behavioral health and specialty care services to four of the state’s most rural and low-income parishes, as well as connecting providers in those parishes to professional development resources. Also, Lafayette General Health Systems is getting $311,356 to expand the South Louisiana Telehealth Network, adding four hubs and 30 sites and training registered nurses to facilitate access to healthcare services at schools, colleges and government agencies.

Also in Louisiana, the Winn Community Health Center is getting $277,672 to expand the North Central Louisiana Telemedicine Program to nine school-based health clinics and two community health centers in extremely rural, low-resourced and high-poverty communities. And Franklin Medical Center is getting $111,794 to expand its telemedicine program to three sites, with a focus on improving care coordination for chronic diseases, including cardiac health issues.

READ MORE: The Benefits and Challenges of Telehealth for Specialists

In Maine, MaineHealth is getting $274,092 to create a telehealth network, including EMS communications, nursery care support, transfer decision support and post-discharge care for home-based patients of 10 area hospitals in Maine and New Hampshire and 13 ambulance companies.

In Missouri, the Lester E. Cox Medical Center is getting $120,246 to create a telemedicine platform serving 22 sites in 11 communities. Through video carts, the platform will connect school nurses, children and their parents with healthcare providers.

In North Carolina, East Carolina University will get $61,772 to launch a telemedicine platform to train dentistry students at eight sites in nine communities. Also, the Mission Healthcare Foundation is getting $231,192 to launch a telemedicine platforms serving 11 sites in 11 communities with carts and digital stethoscopes and horus scopes.

In New York, the New York State Office of Mental Health will get $500,000 to create a telemedicine network encompassing 19 hubs and 66 sites, including schools, clinics, doctors’ offices, correctional facilities and nursing homes. The project will also improve access to mental health services for the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Tuscarora Nation of Indians through Western New York Independent Living. Also, Ira Davenport Memorial Hospital is getting $96,775 to expand a telemedicine network to two sites in Urbana.

Also in New York, The Oneida-Lewis Chapter of the New York State Arc human services organization is getting $474,258 to create a telemedicine program serving 25 residential and day service sites in Oneida and Lewis Counties through a hub in Utica. The project will serve more than 2,500 individuals with disabilities. And the Southern Tier Health Care System is getting $132,899 to create a telemedicine platform to certify and train emergency responders in dealing with opioid overdoses in three counties and the Allegany Indian Reservation.

In Oklahoma, YouthCare of Oklahoma (YCO) Tulsa is getting $459,675 to create a telemental health platform serving three hubs and 21 sites in 13 communities in and around Oklahoma City.

In South Carolina, Central Carolina Technical College is getting $365,457 to create a distance learning network that will include access to healthcare services for rural residents with pervasive health concerns. Also, the Little River Medical Center will get $418,184 to establish a telemedicine network for school-based primary care and behavioral health services in Horry County elementary schools, linking four sites with the Medical Center at the University of South Carolina (MUSC) and expanding access for some 4,000 students and 78,000 residents.

In South Dakota, Avera Health is getting $484,271 to launch a telemedicine program for labor and delivery and post-partum services for mothers and their babies at 11 rural hospitals in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. The platform will, among other things, enable Avera Health to monitor a baby’s heart rate 24 hours a day. In addition, Avera Health is getting $128,045 to launch a telepharmacy platform from its Minnehaha, S.D. hub to sites in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

In Tennessee, United South and Eastern Tribes is getting $496,718 to establish a telemedicine network to 10 Tribal Nation sites in 10 communities in Tennessee, Maine and Florida. Also, Quorum Health is getting $485,395 to create a telemedicine network serving hospitals, medical clinics and schools in 16 sites in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas. And Vanderbilt University Medical Center will get $269,792 to launch a telestroke program with 15 specially equipped ambulances serving Overton, Jackson and Pickett counties.

In Texas, the Northwest Texas Healthcare System will get $427,113 to create a telemedicine platform linking its acute care hospital to a consortium of seven healthcare facilities in the Texas panhandle, to be known as the Texas Panhandle Specialty Telemedicine Project.

In Washington, Sunnyside Community Hospital is getting $68,237 to create a telemedicine program encompassing six hubs, all specialty clinics, and six sites, serving some of the most underserved, poorest and highly diverse communities in the state. In addition, the University of Washington is getting $500,000 to launch the RIDE (Regional Initiatives in dental Education) telemedicine program to 11 sites serving 12 communities in eastern Washington and Montana. And the Wenatchee Valley Hospital and Clinics will be getting $279,620 to expand its telemedicine programs in north central Washington, benefitting two hubs and five sites.

In West Virginia, the CAMC Health Education and Research Institute will get $100,079 to launch a telemedicine platform providing obstetrical services in five counties, with the Charleston Area Medical center serving as the hub and the Summersville Regional Medical Center serving as the end-user.

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