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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. 

  • USDA rural development announces $10.6 million investment in Maine water systems

    USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced loans and grants for 141 projects to build and improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities across the nation. In Maine three systems have been selected to receive a total of $10.6 million for essential upgrades. 

    "Many rural communities need to upgrade and repair their water and wastewater systems, but often lack the resources to do so," said Vilsack. "These loans and grants will help accomplish this goal. USDA's support for infrastructure improvements is an essential part of building strong rural economies."

     “This significant $10.6 million investment in Maine’s wastewater infrastructure will have an important impact on the communities served through providing the necessary infrastructure for economic development, benefiting jobs and local businesses, improving facilities for household users, and preserving Maine’s waterways for the wildlife they support,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.

    In Maine, three systems have been selected to receive a total of $10.6 million for upgrades:

     

    • City of Brewer has been selected to receive a total of $1.9 million (Water and Waste Direct Loan of $1,500,000 and Water and Waste Grant of $400,000). Funds will be used to Rural Development funds will be used by the City of Brewer for essential wastewater collection system and treatment facility upgrades.  The project will prevent public health concerns and comply with standards of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The sewer system currently serves approximately 2800 households and 370 businesses and public facilities. This project will provide the upgrades needed so that the City can continue to provide adequate wastewater services to the community and preserve the Penobscot River, which is home to Atlantic salmon and shortnose sturgeon, among other wildlife populations.
    • Town of Wilton has been selected to receive a total of $4.1 million (Water and Waste Direct Loan of $2,750,000 and Water and Waste Grant of $1,350,000). Funds will be used for a cost-overrun. This project Rural Development funds are being used to upgrade the wastewater treatment system that has surpassed its 20 year expected useful life by approximately 12 years. If the wastewater treatment system were to fail due to the age or the inoperable, undersized, or obsolete technology it would potentially cause a discharge of untreated wastewater into Wilson Stream which is a prime brook trout stream. Also a failure of one of the systems 16 antiquated pump stations located along Wilson Pond could allow for a raw sewerage spill into Wilson Pond. This project will benefit 885 users.

     

    • Town of Oxford has been selected to receive a total of $4.6 million (Water and Waste Direct Loan of $3,601,000 and Water and Waste Grant of $999,000). Funds will be used for a cost-overrun to the project. Rural Development funding is being used to build an entirely new wastewater treatment facility and collection system. This consists of a series of 7 pump stations, 48,350 linear feet of pipes, and a Membrane Bioreactor Waste System. The system was built with the needs of the current potential users and future capacity and economic development of the area and job creation in mind. This project will benefit 383 users.

     

    USDA is awarding $299 million for 88 projects in the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program and $15 million for 53 grants in the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) program..

    ECWAG grants enable water systems that serve eligible rural communities to prepare for, or recover from, imminent or actual emergencies that threaten the availability of safe drinking water. Water and Waste program recipients can use funds to construct water and waste facilities in rural communities.

    Since 2009, USDA has helped provide improved water and wastewater services to nearly 18 million rural residents by investing $12.3 billion in 5,174 projects.

    Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant and loan agreement.

       USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for loans and grants to build rural water infrastructure. Applications may be completed online through RDAPPLY, a new electronic filing system, and atstate and local Rural Development offices. Public entities (counties, townships and communities), non-profit organizations and tribal communities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible to apply. Interest rates for this program are at historically low levels, ranging from 2 percent to 3.25 percent. Loan terms can be up to 40 years. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rd-apply.

         USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 60 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site athttp://www.rd.usda.gov/me.