Investment will benefit Ohio’s rural residents

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COLUMBUS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Ohio Rural Development Acting State Director Beth Huhn announced it is investing $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities.

Rural areas are seeing 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 $42.3 million in awards includes $24 million provided through the CARES Act. In total, these investments will benefit 5 million rural residents.

The USDA is funding 86 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise. These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible in rural communities. The ability to use telehealth resources is critical, especially now during a global pandemic.

In Ohio, Seneca East Local School District will use a $723,000 grant to enhance the delivery of distance learning, particularly Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related, and equip students and teachers for success during the pandemic. The project will equip 57 classrooms with distance education enabled hardware and software, upgrade networking and supply 350 devices to students.

During the pandemic, distance learning is suffering with students and teachers lacking necessary equipment, which causes distress for all parties involved. Education delivery plans have been delivered via distance learning, with some in-school days. This project will impact Seneca, Erie, Sandusky, Hancock, Wood and Huron Counties and will also provide mental health services remotely.

Ohio Valley Physicians Inc is receiving a $430,000 grant to provide telehealth services in Floyd, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin and Pike counties in Kentucky; Cabell, Mingo, Jackson and Logan counties in West Virginia; Gallia, Lawrence and Scioto counties in Ohio; and Buchanan County in Virginia.

Each site will have a dedicated telehealth room equipped with a large interactive touchscreen monitor, computer, camera and printer. Each hub or hub/end-user site will have two dedicated providers who will be provide telehealth services to patients at end-user sites. This project also will provide substance misuse treatment services.

For more information, visit usda.gov/coronavirus.

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