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

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

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
Organization City State Amount
Regional Health Care Network Childersburg AL $299,111
Livingston Community Health Services Livingston CA $300,000
Valley Citizens' Foundation For Health Care Del Norte CO $300,000
Florida Department Of Education Madison FL $190,914
Indiana Rural Health Association Linton IN $300,000
Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization West Liberty KY $300,000
Lac Qui Parle Health Network Hospital Services Cooperative Madison MN $298,836
Montana State University Bozeman MT $300,000
McDowell Technical Community College Marion NC $300,000
Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization Watertown NY $287,592
Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare Alliance Du Bois PA $300,000
Horizon Health Care Howard SD $300,000
AHEC of the Plains Plainview TX $300,000
Virginia Community College Big Stone Gap VA $296,188
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore WI $268,599
Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program - FY2013 Awards
Organization City State Amount
State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Juneau AK $300,000
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Augusta ME $300,000
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Helena MT $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.

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2017