Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced funding to establish telemedicine and other health care projects to address unmet health care needs in the Delta region.
"This funding can help improve the health of rural residents who live in the south central portion of the country," Vilsack said. "These projects can provide care to patients currently receiving no care at all and hopefully reduce the incidence of stroke, mental illness, and other health disorders in rural regions."
The grants will help fund healthcare 10 projects in six states that will deliver health services to areas currently lacking adequate care and deliver services to 25 persistent poverty counties.
For example, Rural Development funds will be used to finance the Delta Electronic Intensive Care Unit network to link five hospitals in the most rural and impoverished counties of the Mississippi Delta. In Alabama, Rural Development funds will finance "Healthcare on Wheels," to provide health care services in areas currently lacking clinics, hospitals, emergency and general provider services.
The following list of awardees will receive funding under Rural Development's Delta Health Care Services Grant Program, contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA.
Established under the 2008 Farm Bill, the grants are awarded to eligible entities, including health care professionals, institutions of research and higher education, to serve communities with no more than 50,000 inhabitants to address unmet health needs in the Delta region, which comprises the 252 counties and parishes within the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee that are served by the Delta Regional Authority.
The Tombigbee Health Care Authority--$384,742 will finance a nurse/medical student managed Mobile Health Van Program (MHVP). The program will provide healthcare services, education, telemedicine, and outreach linkage to community resources. The mobile medical van will be a totally independent unit with the capability of providing healthcare/clinic services. Access to health care in the Alabama Delta is a major concern. This project will serve the portion of the Alabama Delta that currently has no health care provider offices, no Federally Qualified Health Care Clinics, no hospitals and no emergency medical service.
Arkansas State University – Mountain Home--$384,742 will finance improved education and training in two state schools' accredited 2 year Respiratory Therapy (RT) programs by providing equipment needed to add certification in the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP). The rural Delta Region of north central Arkansas has a high need for neonatal respiratory care due to high rates of teen pregnancies and reliance on emergency health services.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences--$162,002 will finance equipment and support for the Delta Telecommunications Centers (DTC) project to address the long-term care and unmet health needs in the Arkansas Delta Region. Funds will be used for provide computer labs with Internet access to six nursing home facilities to provide educational opportunities for students enrolled in college-based registered nursing programs. The DTC will also establish three telehealth centers to enable nursing home medical staff to consult with distant medical directors and specialists associated with the Arkansas Aging Initiative and the Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Connect SI Foundation, Inc.-- $519,924 will finance the Southern Illinois Delta Regional Simulation and Learning Lab Project. The funds will provide distance learning equipment and support to four local colleges and two high schools to help develop and provide Health Education Programs and Health Care Job Training Programs through distance learning equipment and technologies. The project will serve the southernmost part of Illinois, a region with isolated households, low income and low educational levels, high rates of poverty, illness and mortality, and large numbers of medically underserved residents.
Murray State University--$233,366 will finance the West Kentucky TeleCare Project by providing equipment and resources for telehealth infrastructure for five rural critical access hospitals, two small hospitals, and one acute care hospital in the Delta Region of western Kentucky. The project will link the eight hospitals into the Kentucky Telehealth Network, which focuses on providing clinical, educational, and administrative support for healthcare in rural Kentucky. The project will provide a network and training for rural hospital staff, medical students, and clinical programming with physicians in the Kentucky Telehealth Network, and research to advance community health.
Delta Health Alliance, Inc.-- $699,142 will finance the Delta Electronic Intensive Care Unit (eICU) Network. The network will provide a secure interlinked eICU system between five hospitals in the most underserved and impoverished rural counties of the Mississippi Delta. The telemedicine initiative project will connect the rural hospitals with the state-of-the-art critical care center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
City of Mound Bayou--$2,993,954 will finance the Taborian Urgent Care Center of Mound Bayou, MS, the area's first urgent care center. Currently, there are no urgent care centers within an 80-mile radius of Mound Bayou. The nearest hospital is approximately 9 miles from the city. The Taborian Urgent Care Center will offer residents expanded health care services with extended hours and can provide distance learning in collaboration with Mississippi Valley State University. The center will also offer on site courses in collaboration with Coahoma County Community College.
Building Healthy Communities, Inc.--$364,443 will finance the Louisiana Nursing Home Telehealth Project to provide specialty healthcare consultation including cardiology, pulmonology, nephrology, oncology, and wound care, to five rural nursing homes in the Louisiana Delta. The project will allow patients to be examined by a specialist in another city without leaving their nursing facilities. The five nursing homes associated with the project have a large Medicaid population and face significant challenges in accessing affordable, timely, and quality healthcare services.
Franklin Parish Hospital, Service District No. 1--$62,870 grant will finance a telemental health program for residents of Franklin and Tensas Parishes, two of the most impoverished parishes in the Mississippi Delta region of Northeast Louisiana. The area ranks higher than the state and national averages for the number of mentally ill. This telemental health program will address the problem of shortages and increasing mental health patient load from mental facilities through video conference-enabled psychiatric counseling, pre-hospitalization assessment, post-hospital follow up care, outpatient visits, and medication management.
Ochsner Clinic Foundation--$270,254 will finance the Acute Stroke System for Emergent Regional Telemedicine (ASSERT) to eight rural hospitals in Central Louisiana to develop health care services, health education programs, and professional training programs related to stroke care. The telemedicine project will provide the hospitals with access to a stroke specialist, reduce decision time for treatments, increase the use of interventions shown to improve outcomes following strokes, improve overall care of stroke patients, and reduce transfer rates of patients out of the rural hospitals. The proposed hospitals are small rural hospitals without the specialty stroke coverage on staff to provide acute stroke care and are located in a region with high risk and mortality for stroke care.