MEMPHIS, Tenn., April 5, 2007 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas C. Dorr today announced that USDA is making available $62.9 million in distance learning and telemedicine loans, $75 million in loan and grant combinations, and $15 million in grants.
"Telemedicine and distance learning are the foundation on which the quality of education and health care in rural America can and will improve," Dorr said via a video teleconference with health care providers in five states over a USDA-financed telemedicine network. "With these systems in place, rural residents will be able to take advantage of the wide variety of health care services and education programs available now and into the future."
Since 2002, USDA has invested more than $166 million in its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program, allowing 3,796 rural educational facilities to expand their access to modern telecommunications technology, and 2,226 health care institutions to develop technologies needed to enhance local medical care. The Administration proposes additional funding for improvements to both rural Critical Access Hospitals and key community facilities improvements, including DLT linkages.
Telemedicine technology makes it possible for doctors to examine and direct the treatment of patients from remote treatment centers. The technology gives rural residents access to medical specialists not often available in remote areas. The distance learning program finances equipment to expand educational resources to students and educational institutions in isolated rural areas.
Applications for the $15 million in distance learning and telemedicine grants must be received by June 11, 2007 and will compete nationally for funding. Applications for loans and loan and grant combinations will be accepted year round. Interested parties should contact their Rural Development state office. A list of state offices is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov. View the Rural Development DLT website ( http://www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dlt.htm ) for additional information on the distance learning and telemedicine program.