Watertown, NY, Mar 20, 2014 -- USDA officials joined community leaders, educators, and health professionals to announce the selection of six distance learning and telemedicine projects that will increase access to health care and enhance educational opportunities in rural New York.
“Expanding access to broadband will greatly improve educational and economic opportunities for the rural residents of New York,” said Stanley Telega, USDA Rural Development New York State Director. “Broadband gives students more courses to choose from, more skills to use in high-paying jobs, and more opportunities to enroll in colleges and universities offering the best education available today. We must make needed investments to connect our rural residents to the 21st century technology that will help them compete in a global economy.”
Today’s event was held at the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services. It included a demonstration of the equipment, giving community members a first-hand look at what they may be seeing in classrooms or health care facilities in the near future.
Today’s investments are being provided through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant program. It provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance for telemedicine and distance learning. Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.
A complete list of New York grant recipients are below. Each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
· Seneca Nation of Indians – $463,253. Funds will be used for video conference equipment to be used for telemedicine. This project addresses the need for patients and their immediate care givers to access mental health counseling and specialty care at a distance due to shortage of local qualified providers. Five end-user sites at the Seneca Nation will have access to two psychiatric offices located hours away. The main clinic site, the Cattaraugus Indian Health Clinic, will also facilitate the connection to distant specialists, such as an endocrinologist, who can provide needed consultations to patients at the other four end-user sites that otherwise could not receive those services. The equipment will also be used to train, update knowledge, and maintain the needed level of expertise at the local care giver sites.
· Otsego Northern Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services – $379,598.00. Funds will be used to upgrade and expand a distance learning system at 11 sites in the Catskills region of central New York.
· Cattaraugus Allegany Erie Wyoming Board of Cooperative Educational Services – $218,787. Funds will be used to provide teleconferencing equipment. The project will deliver distance learning capabilities between Cattaraugus' main facility and 19 K-12 rural schools. Schools will be able to share teachers, offer new classes and capture live classes for playback.
· St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services –$500,000.00. Funds will be used to replace video teleconferencing equipment at 14 sites and install equipment at four new sites. The new distance learning system will consolidate low- demand courses, offer advanced placement courses and enrichment programs, support individualized learning and special needs, and provide teacher training, continuing education and adult learning. The program serves 10 school districts in New York’s North Country.
· Oswego County Board of Cooperative Educational Services –$302,678.00. Funds will be used to purchase distance learning equipment for the Altmar-Parish- Williamstown, Central Square, Hannibal Central, Phoenix Central and Sandy Creek Central school districts. Advanced placement, dual credit and foreign language courses will be offered. Special classes for adult learning, workforce development and teacher professional development will use the system during after-school hours.
· Jefferson Lewis Hamilton Herkimer Oneida Board of Cooperative Educational Services—$ 487,267.00. Funds will be used to purchase video teleconferencing units for 37 schools in the Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, Herkimer, Oneida jurisdiction, 15 of which have never been connected to a distance learning system before. LeMoyne College in Syracuse, Clarkson University in Potsdam, Jefferson Community College in Watertown, and the Syracuse University School of Medicine will be part of the teleconference network.
Today's announcement supports President Obama's ConnectED initiative. In June 2013, President Obama announced an effort to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet over the next five years. Since 2009 USDA has provided support for more than 3,300 educational institutions receiving distance learning services to help rural children get an education that is as good as that of their peers in cities.
Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $150 million in the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. These investments complement other USDA efforts to improve rural communications. In FY 2013, USDA provided $305 million in loans for broadband infrastructure. These loans will result in new or upgraded broadband service for about 120,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions once the projects are completed. High-speed broadband access is as vital to the educational and economic fortunes of rural America as electricity was in the 1930s and 1940s.
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.