Avera Health receives rural development funding

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 52 distance learning and telemedicine projects that will increase access to health care and enhance educational opportunities in 29 states.

John T. Porter, president/CEO of Avera Health; Erik Nelson, Sen. Tim Johnson’s staff; Sister Joan Reichelt, senior vice president of culture; Eric Saugstad, Sen. John Thune’s staff; and USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks.

"Americans in our rural communities need access to the latest educational and health care services to compete in the 21st Century," Vilsack said. The funding I am announcing today for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program will help ensure that rural citizens receive the same high-level, specialized medical care and educational services as enjoyed by their fellow citizens in urban areas."

The projects announced today total $14 million and include 19 distance learning projects, 32 telemedicine projects and one combined project. All will benefit rural counties. Nearly half of the total funding – 45 percent – will go to counties where the minority population is greater than 30 percent. Another 18 percent of this funding will benefit areas where American Indian populations exceed 30 percent.

Better health care services for rural South Dakota: One of two separate projects by Avera Health, the Avera TeleCare Project will purchase and install telemedicine equipment for 17 participating hospitals, clinics, and long term care facilities in a 63-end user telemedicine network that covers the multi-state frontier and rural territory of the Northern Great Plains.

Counties to be served include Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Gregory, Grant, Hutchinson, Kingsbury, Marshall, Moody and Yankton in South Dakota; Emmet and Sioux in Iowa; Lincoln and Marshall in Minnesota; Holt and Knox in Nebraska; and Hot Springs in Wyoming.

The second project by Avera Health, the Avera Rural Connect Project will purchase and install telemedicine equipment for 20 medical facilities and four long term care facilities in a telemedicine network that covers the multi-state frontier and rural territory of the Northern Great Plains.

Counties served include Bon Homme, Brookings, Brule, Charles Mix, Davison, Hand, Hutchinson, Kingsbury, McPherson, Minnehaha and Yankton in South Dakota; Emmet, Dickinson, Osceola, and Sioux in Iowa; Pipestone, Lincoln, and Lyon in Minnesota; and Bottineau, McIntosh, McKenzie, and Rolette in North Dakota.

Since taking office, the Obama administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to using Federal resources more efficiently to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

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