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HHS Secretary Announces $32 Million to Support Rural Health Priorities

Photo: Pete Souza
Photo: Pete Souza

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday more than $32 million in FY 2010 funds to make healthcare more accessible for Americans living in rural areas.

“These funds reflect the priorities spelled out by President Obama in providing the best healthcare possible to rural Americans,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to build healthier rural populations and communities.”

The grants will boost partnerships among rural health providers, said HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield.

“Funds will be used to recruit and retain rural healthcare professionals and modernize the healthcare infrastructure in rural areas,” she said.

More than $22 million will go toward the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which supports enhancement in healthcare quality in communities served by Critical Access Hospitals, efforts to improve the hospitals’ financial and operating performance, and the development of collaborative regional and local delivery systems.

Rural Health Workforce Development Program, which supports the development of rural health networks that seek to improve the recruitment and retention of emerging health professionals in rural communities, will receive more than $3 million.

More than $3 million will to toward two telehealth programs: the Telehealth Network Grant Program, which helps communities build capacity to develop sustainable telehealth programs and networks, and the Telehealth Resources Center Grant Program, which provides technical assistance to help healthcare organizations, networks and providers implement cost-effective telehealth programs serving rural and medically underserved areas and populations.

The Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program, a new program that will help eligible entities coordinate innovative approaches, will receive nearly $1 million. The grants aim to improve mental-health services through the use of health information exchange and telehealth in states where veterans comprise a high percentage of the total population.

Additional programs awarded funds include the Frontier Community Health Integration Demonstration Program, and the Rural Training Track Technical Assistance Demonstration Program, which, respectively, will receive $770,000 and $500,000.

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