The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it will provide more than $1.3 million to fund three telecommunications projects for improved technology systems to support distance education and telemedicine in Nevada. Forty-six education sites at elementary, middle and high schools, community colleges, Cooperative Extension Service Centers, and Nevada Youth Training Centers will access improved technology and more advanced educational curricula, and 21 additional health care sites will be able to provide acute and preventive health care services.
“These telecommunications systems help connect rural people in remote communities to experts and resources across the country,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Sarah Adler. “High school students will be able to access advanced courses through distance learning; the telehealth system expansion will provide rural access to health care services that are currently not available. A tremendous amount of collaboration among Renown Health, the Nevada System of Higher Education, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, health providers, USDA and other providers went into these applications for a very competitive program; it is terrific to get these results.”
Renown TeleHealth received a $436,936 grant to provide acute and ambulatory healthcare services in 21 rural healthcare communities in Nevada and California through a high-definition telehealth network. Rural hospitals, clinics and correctional institutions in eight Nevada and three California counties will be able to connect patients, families and caregivers to area emergency and elective healthcare services.
USDA granted the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) $493,351 to provide videoconferencing equipment in 13 Nevada counties to replace outdated equipment and software for video, audio and interactive collaboration at 30 interactive sites across the state. Most of the connection sites are at elementary schools, high schools, and rural community college campuses.
USDA approved $454,676 for the Elko County School District to connect 16 schools and 10 communities with advanced distance learning technology in Elko and White Pine County. The new systems will include video conferencing stations, archiving and replay equipment and bridging gear. This will allow Great Basin College to offer college level courses, language and math courses to smaller high schools. the Communities in Schools of Northeastern Nevada (CISNE) located in Elko, will provide counseling and behavioral health services through their systems connected to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities acquire technologies to connect educators and medical providers with other professionals and other needed expertise that would be too far to access otherwise. This program taps into modern telecommunications and technology to improve education and healthcare which are two imperative factors for economic and community development.
Nationwide, USDA Rural Development awarded $23.4 million in grants to support 45 distance learning and 36 telemedicine projects. Since 2009, the agency has provided $213 million for 634 DLT projects in rural areas nationwide. USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which administers the DLT program, also offers infrastructure programs that bring broadband, safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment facilities to rural communities.