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On October 31, 2018, the USDA announced grant awards for the agency’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. Access Health Louisiana (AHL), the largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) network in Louisiana, was awarded $184,512 by the USDA.  Contemporary Health Care, Inc. and AHL combined their clinical, telemedicine, and consulting expertise to develop the DLT grant, which was fully-funded.


The DLT Program is specifically designed to assist rural communities such as those in Louisiana in acquiring distance learning and telemedical technologies so that local teachers, and medical service providers who serve rural residents at AHL’s FQHC “end user” sites can link to other teachers, medical professionals, and other needed expertise located at AHL’s “hub” sites of which, distances are too far to access otherwise.


AHL’s DLT Program for Community Health Center-CHC and School-Based Health Center Sites-SBHC is a telecommunications system linking 3 hub sites and 4 end user sites. The telecommunications system is both distance learning and telemedicine with equipment apportioned to both hub and end user sites.   


Louisiana rural residents are poorer, lack health insurance and education, and have higher unemployment, which are to be addressed by AHL’s DLT Program to improve health outcomes, increase health access, and reduce health disparities.  The project is needed at AHL’s rural CHC and SBHC sites to improve preventive and primary care and behavioral health access and services to low-income patients.


Many of AHL’s patients, have comorbid mental health conditions with their primary care diagnosis (i.e. opioid abuse with depression). This complicates treatment; counseling and psychiatrist interventions are required and the equipment that DLT grant funding provides will make treatment options available. AHL’s 3-year telecommunications system project includes services provided to school-age children and adolescents and patients of all life cycles with a focus on opioid treatment. The DLT Project is needed at AHL’s rural CHC and SBHC sites to provide more health access and services, plus AHL’s providers are the frontline first responders of the healthcare delivery system and of the opioid epidemic in Louisiana.


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