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  • USDA awards $2.68 Million in distance learning and telemedicine grants for 7 Maine projects

    Telemedicine at work in Maine.

    On Nov. 19, 2015 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is investing $23.4 million in 75 projects in 31 states and the Western Pacific to expand distance learning and telemedicine opportunities in rural areas.

    In Maine, seven organizations have been selected to receive a total of $2.68 in grant funds for distance learning and telemedicine projects in Maine communities. Historically Maine organizations have been in the top of the country in terms of these awards, as is again this year one of the top three states tied for number of recipients funded.

    “This represents a major investment in healthcare and education for Maine’s rural and Native American populations. These projects mean that adult learning, mental health services, home healthcare, diabetes management and many other quality programs will be available to residents in Maine’s rural communities without the cost of gas or stress associated with traveling long distances,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.

     The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. They may be used to purchase equipment to provide educational and telemedicine services to rural communities.

    “Rural communities often lack access to specialized medical care or advanced educational opportunities necessary for stronger rural economies,” said Vilsack. “These grants will help increase access to health care and many other essential services.”

    The grants in Maine go to: 

    • Maine Rural Health Collaborative, LLC, Mount Desert Island, $431,599 - Rural Development funds will enable the project to offer telemedicine services to nine rural clinics located in the northern and eastern areas of Maine.  Through the project, psychiatrist services, dermatology, diabetes care, and other specialty management services will be provided.  In addition, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians (Aroostook County) and the Passamaquoddy Indian Health Centers (Washington County) will participate in the network.  It is estimated that 3,000 Native Americans will also benefit from this project.
    • Easton School District, Easton, $499,773- Rural Development funds will be used to deploy fully-interactive video-teleconferencing equipment at 1 hub-site and 29 end-user sites i.e., 27 public schools, 1 occupational training center and a Micmac facility (a federally-recognized tribe), to facilitate the interexchange & sharing of educational and vocational materials among educators, students and adult learners via the Internet.
    • Regional School Unit 64, Corinth, $498,535- Rural Development funds will be used to establish an interactive distance learning network that broadcasts classes from Hudson Elementary School, Maine Central Institute, and Hampden Academy to 6 schools served by RSU 64 School District, 3 schools served by RUS 50 School District as well as Beatrice Rafferty School located on the Passamaquoddy reservation.
    • Region Two School of Applied Technology (Rural Maine Public Health Consortium), Houlton, $498,825- Rural Development funds will be used to connect the Pleasant Point Adult Education Center on the Passamaquoddy Tribal Reservation and 48 other Adult Education centers throughout Southern and Eastern Maine.  Region 2 School of Applied Technology, the lead organization, will oversee this project as well as the sister project with Maine Adult Education Consortium while University of Maine (UM) serves as technology hub for both projects.  Educational content in nursing, allied health, and mental health subject areas will originate from Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) to all connected education centers.  Mobile devices with telepresence packages will be installed at the education centers while cart-mounted video endpoint equipment will be deployed at the hubs and hub/end-user sites.  The project also leverages existing video equipment at UM, KVCC and Somerset Public Health sites.
    • Region Two School of Applied Technology, Houlton, $499,378- Rural Development funds will be used to offer adult classes ranging from basic literacy and high school completion to highly specialized, career-focused training amongst 42 end user sites.  The project will enable local residents to go to a local facility and choose classes offered from anywhere in the state.  Another benefit of the project is that fewer teachers will be required for the area to teach the same number of students, reducing duplication of effort and creating opportunity for them to develop and offer new classes.
    • Kno-Wal-Lin Home Health Care Management, Inc., Rockland, $130,000- Rural Development funds will be used to provide tele-homecare monitors, plus integrated peripherals, to elderly, disabled and chronically ill residents of rural Maine.  Through remote patient monitoring, improved integration of patient information, and quicker response times for practitioners when patients are in jeopardy, patients will receive the timely care needed to prevent emergency room visits, hospitalization and institutionalization.  The use of the proposed home monitoring system and video-links will allow health professionals and patients to interact in a more frequent and timely manner.  Patients will experience reduced stress, a reduced need to travel to and from healthcare services, and will save time and money. Individuals will experience an increased quality of life and be able to remain at home as long as possible, despite having age-related handicaps and illnesses. 
    • Home Health Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine, Saco, $129,400- Rural Development funds will be used to deliver telehealth services to patients in their homes.  The services that will be provided are daily nurse monitoring of vital signs, video connection with clinicians, medication management modules, and disease specific health education.  The project will benefit western Cumberland County, northern York County, and western York County.

    The awards are being announced on National Rural Health Day to highlight work underway in the private sector, academia and in state and federal rural health offices to address the unique health care needs of rural communities.

    Funding of each award announced is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of their grant agreement.

    Since 2009, USDA has provided more than $213 million in loans and grants for 634 distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas nationwide.

    President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities.

    USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor.