HARRISBURG – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced a significant expansion of access to high-speed internet, health care and educational services for millions of rural Americans nationwide.

Vilsack also announced a $50 million investment in 105 rural distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. These awards are being funded through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. This program helps fund distance learning and telemedicine services in rural areas to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable.

In Pennsylvania, Cen-Clear Child Services, Inc., received a grant of $157,025 to expand a telehealth project to those with substance use disorders in rural central Pennsylvania. Interactive telehealth equipment will be utilized for the provision of drug and alcohol outpatient services, including Medication Assisted Treatment to over 2,200 patients and their families. Additionally, interactive video equipment will be installed in group rooms at five drug and alcohol clinics in the Pennsylvania counties of Clearfield, Jefferson, and Clarion. This project will increase rural access to services, reduce travel and reduce drug related emergencies.

Penn Highland DuBois received a grant of $791,474 to expand its current telemedicine program and capability across rural northwestern and central Pennsylvania through its network of hospitals, outpatient clinics, pharmacies, and medical practices. The project will focus on behavioral health with an emphasis on addressing opioid and substance abuse patients. The project will enhance telemedicine opportunities for 79,000 residents in the served communities.

“For too long, the ‘digital divide’ has left too many people living in rural communities behind: unable to compete in the global economy and unable to access the services and resources that all Americans need,” Vilsack said. “As we build back better than we were before, the actions I am announcing today will go a long way toward ensuring that people who live or work in rural areas are able to tap into the benefits of broadband, including access to specialized health care, educational opportunities and the global marketplace. Rural people, businesses and communities must have affordable, reliable, high-speed internet so they can fully participate in modern society and the modern economy.”

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