Temple, Texas, Sep 19, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off National Health IT week by highlighting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to expand funding for advanced health care technology in rural America.
“Digital technology holds tremendous promise for the future of health care, and we must ensure that rural Americans have access to the latest in health technology,” Vilsack said. “USDA has worked hard to expand digital tools and infrastructure for rural health providers, and as a result more communities are well-positioned to provide cutting edge health care.”
USDA is partnering with HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs to leverage funds to support advanced health care technology in rural hospitals. This partnership is an extension of a successful pilot launched in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas to identify rural critical access hospitals in persistent poverty areas in need of advanced health care technology.
“USDA Rural Development is pleased to provide funding that supports communities in their effort to keep pace with the needs associated with their rising populations,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development State Director. “We must ensure that rural areas, like those in Mitchell and Kinney counties have the most up-to-date medical equipment, emergency response vehicles, and facilities to allow residents access to the best health care options possible.”
In conjunction with Health IT Week, Secretary Vilsack announced funding today for two recipients in Texas to make technological upgrades and improve access to quality health care in rural areas. USDA funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
The Mitchell County Hospital District was awarded $28,800 funding through the Community Facilities grant program. Funds will be used to purchase a nurse call system, improve and enhance patient care for almost 10,000 Mitchell County residents.
Funding was also announced for Kinney County. The $40,600 Community Facilities grant will be used to purchase an ambulance for the Kinney County Fire Rescue, which provides Emergency Medical Services for the City of Brackettville, City of Spofford and Fort Clark Springs, in addition to the entire unincorporated area of Kinney County. The new ambulance will provide service for almost 4,000 rural residents.
Rural Development programs provide funding for rural health IT infrastructure and expand local access to high quality health care services for rural Americans nationwide. These Rural Development programs include the Community Facilities loan and grant program, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program and the Rural Economic Development loan and grant program.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions.