Two Kansas organizations have received distance learning and telemedicine grants totaling more than $750,000 through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant program.
A total of 25 states were among recipients of grants intended to help rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries buy equipment and pay for 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.
"Broadband and high-speed Internet are critical infrastructure for rural communities if they expect their businesses and residents to compete in the global economy," says USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark. "Connecting anchor institutions and individuals through technology is an essential quality-of-life investment."
KVC Health Systems, Inc.
KVC Health Systems, Inc. is a nonprofit child welfare and behavioral healthcare organization. Each day KVC provides services to more than 25,000 children and families in Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Nebraska, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The organization's headquarters is located in Olathe.
USDA Rural Development is providing KVC with a $330,695 USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to develop a video conferencing platform and purchase 400 iPads. KVC has more than 500 professional services staff that provide behavioral health therapy to children in foster care and their families. The development of a video conferencing platform will enable KVC to extend continuing education and required supervision for staff in rural, high-need areas.
The iPads that will be purchased through the grant will be placed in the homes of children in foster care in West Virginia and Kentucky. The iPads will enable these children to have immediate assistance of KVC staff when they need it the most. There are plans to expand the availability of iPads to other KVC subsidiaries in Kansas and Nebraska after a successful initial implementation.
Southwest Kansas Educational Consortium
The Southwest Kansas Educational Consortium is comprised of six schools: Ashland, Fowler, Meade, Bucklin, Greensburg and Minneola; and three community colleges: Dodge City Community College, Seward County Community College, and Pratt County Community College that collaborate and share resources.
USDA Rural Development is providing the Southwest Kansas Educational Consortium with a $426,675 Distance Learning Grant to update a 20-year-old distance learning system. The consortium uses interactive television, which is a video conference system.
With ITV, teachers can connect to other classrooms in the consortium and from around the state, allowing students from other locations to take courses not offered at their school. It will offer students new opportunities in technical skills and certification. More than 400 students and 130 teachers will be able to utilize the system each year.
"Without the support of USDA this project wouldn't be possible," said Shana Alexander, Director of the Southwest Kansas Educational Consortium. "Oftentimes in our rural schools it is challenging to find specialty teachers, such as a Spanish teacher. With the new equipment from the grant, the consortium can offer specialty courses to many more students, and allow teachers and students to have more flexibility in their scheduling."
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.
Further information on programs available through USDA is available by visiting the agency's website or by calling 785-271-2700.