U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HHS Awards $5.3 Million to Boost Health IT for Rural Areas

Grants will support workforce training and expand mental health services for veterans

Nearly $5.3 million in grants will help to expand the rural Health Information Technology (HIT) workforce and the use of telehealth to improve mental health services for veterans in rural areas, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today.

Close to $4.4 million will go to rural organizations in 15 states to recruit and train current health care staff, local unemployed workers, rural veterans, and other potential students to meet the technology needs of rural hospitals and clinics. Community colleges will work with local rural health care providers to develop rural-focused HIT training programs. Students selected for these programs will gain EHR technology certification, apprenticeship training and the opportunity for employment in rural hospitals and clinics.

“Health IT is growing in rural communities, and its use is even more critical now as we’re expanding access to patients living in those areas,” said Secretary Sebelius. “This investment is designed to attract, train and retain HIT specialists who might otherwise seek education and job opportunities away from their own rural communities where their skills are greatly needed.” 

In addition, a total of $900,000 will be awarded to Maine, Montana, and Alaska to improve the quality of mental health and other critical healthcare services for veterans living in rural areas. Each state will receive $300,000 to enhance crisis intervention services through telehealth technologies. These services will enable health providers to coordinate care wirelessly and electronically across long distances to detect and treat post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and other injuries for rural veterans.

The grants, funded by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, are part of an ongoing collaboration between HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a 21st century information infrastructure for rural health.  The programs are designed to build on existing networks of care among health care entities such as critical access hospitals, home health agencies, community mental health clinics and other providers of mental health services. 

“Our veterans deserve the best care possible,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, R.N., Ph.D.  “Improving Health IT coordination between HHS, the VA and local rural care providers will help ensure that veterans receive high-quality mental health care that is delivered as efficiently as possible.”

These grants also align with the goals of the White House Rural Council, initiated by President Obama in 2011 to better meet the needs of rural communities through collaboration between federal agencies.

Rural Health Information Technology Workforce Program - FY2013 Awards
Regional Health Care NetworkChildersburgAL$299,111
Livingston Community Health ServicesLivingstonCA$300,000
Valley Citizens' Foundation For Health CareDel NorteCO$300,000
Florida Department Of EducationMadisonFL$190,914
Indiana Rural Health AssociationLintonIN$300,000
Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information OrganizationWest LibertyKY$300,000
Lac Qui Parle Health Network Hospital Services CooperativeMadisonMN$298,836
Montana State UniversityBozemanMT$300,000
McDowell Technical Community CollegeMarionNC$300,000
Fort Drum Regional Health Planning OrganizationWatertownNY$287,592
Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare AllianceDu BoisPA$300,000
Horizon Health CareHowardSD$300,000
AHEC of the PlainsPlainviewTX$300,000
Virginia Community CollegeBig Stone GapVA$296,188
Southwest Wisconsin Technical CollegeFennimoreWI$268,599
Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program - FY2013 Awards
State of Alaska Department of Health and Social ServicesJuneauAK$300,000
Maine Department of Health and Human ServicesAugustaME$300,000
Montana Department of Public Health and Human ServicesHelenaMT$300,000

The Health Resources and Services Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  HRSA is the primary Federal agency responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.  For more information about HRSA and its programs, visit www.hrsa.gov.