Des Moines, Iowa, Sep 30, 2013 -- Bill Menner, U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director in Iowa, recently received the 2013 Critical Access and Rural Hospital Champion Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). State Director Menner was one of eight recipients announced nationwide this year by the HHS National Coordination for Health Information Technology.
The award recognizes collaborative efforts the individuals have taken with public and private sector partners to ensure critical access hospitals and small, rural hospitals all across the nation have access to the equipment and services they need to provide the best possible patient care.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has awarded more than $200 million in loans and grants to around 30 rural health care facilities in Iowa helping to make needed facility and equipment improvements. A growing number of those projects include health information technology investments, from electronic health records to fiber-optic networks that support cutting-edge systems.
“We get involved with these projects because people in small towns deserve quality health care,” Menner said. “Rural residents should not be 30 minutes or an hour from a hospital or clinic – especially at those critical moments when a life is in peril.”
Along with serving as the USDA Rural Development State Director in Iowa since 2009, Menner is also a board member for a central Iowa rural hospital.
“Serving on a rural hospital board gives me insights into health care delivery and the challenges that exist in rural areas,” he added.
Menner has led outreach efforts to rural hospitals and assisted with the development of a national initiative to meet the goals established by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in an agreement with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to support rural health care providers, including funding for medical equipment purchases to support Health Information Technology (HIT) in rural communities.
“Iowa consistently ranks near the top of studies that measure the quality and delivery of health care services thanks to a strong network of rural and critical access hospitals in small towns and numerous hospitals and clinics in the state’s larger communities,” Menner said.
USDA Rural Development has programs that can assist rural hospitals with making improvements to their facilities and services including Community Facilities and Distance Learning and Telemedicine loans and grants. Also, the agency’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program provides funding to rural electric or telecommunications cooperatives to promote rural economic development and job creation projects.
Recently, Access Energy Cooperative in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, received a $300,000 Rural Economic Grant and $495,000 Rural Economic Development Loan to provide a pass-through loan for the Henry County Health Center to purchase equipment for the surgical and outpatient departments.
USDA Rural Development’s funding continues to have a dramatic impact on rural communities across Iowa. Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $2.5 billion on essential public facilities, small and emerging businesses, water and sewer systems, and housing opportunities for Iowa families.
This past year USDA Rural Development’s investment in Iowa helped create or retain more than 1,600 jobs, aided 2,400 families in buying their own homes and assisted more than 60 communities as they made improvements to their facilities, services and infrastructure.
Further information on programs available through USDA Rural Development is available by calling (515) 284-4663 or by visiting the agency’s web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia.
USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state to serve the 1.7 million Iowans living in rural communities and areas. Office locations include a State Office in Des Moines, along with Area Offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
# # #