CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $2,310,823 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand access to high-speed internet and educational and health services for rural West Virginians.
“West Virginia’s future relies on our ability to bring reliable internet connectivity to our rural communities,” Senator Capito said. “It’s why I’ve continued to fight to secure funding to close the digital divide for the areas of our state that need it most. From writing letters of support like the one I submitted for Pocahontas County to building out my Capito Connect program, I will continue to secure the resources West Virginia needs to address this critical issue.”
“Affordable, reliable access to the Internet is essential in order to complete homework, compete for jobs and attend telehealth appointments. I’m pleased USDA is investing in these West Virginia programs by providing much needed equipment to expand telehealth and distance learning opportunities, and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for our communities,” Senator Manchin said.
Individual awards listed below:
- $744,328 – West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
- This rural development investment will be used to purchase distance learning equipment that will develop a statewide network to provide an interactive telecommunications link between hub and end users. The project will increase the availability of opioid and substance abuse prevention programs, establish the base of a statewide synchronous interactive distance learning network, expand the availability of college courses to rural communities, improve retention and graduation rates of college students, expand educational opportunities for high schools, improve academic achievement and college readiness for high schools, and increase community resources. The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission will serve as the hub of the project and will serve approximately 5,600 residents in rural West Virginia.
- $570,211 – Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc.
- This rural development investment will be used to enhance the Appalachian Regional Healthcare's (ARH) current telemedicine program by adding 33 telemedicine carts to 29 ARH hospital or outpatient clinic locations throughout Eastern Kentucky and Western West Virginia. 19 of these telemedicine carts will serve 17 outpatient clinic locations. Through the use of portable telemedicine units, patients at these rural clinics will be able to visit with a variety of specialists via video conferencing. The project will also fund the purchase of 14 inpatient carts for 12 hospital locations to assist with inpatient telemedicine consultations by various specialists including cardiology, pulmonology, and a telemedicine hospitalist program for some of ARH's Critical Access Hospitals. Six inpatient carts will also be purchased to provide telemedicine services between the six obstetrics units across the ARH system. These units will be utilized specifically for ARH's only level two NICU in Hazard to provide consultative services to the other five obstetric units especially regarding Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infants born to mothers with substance use disorder. An estimated 350,000 rural residents will have access to improved medical care through this project.
- $464,614 – Clay County School District
- This rural development investment will be used to provide distance learning technology and telemedicine stations for each of Clay County's six schools. Distance learning technology will be utilized to provide virtual learning experiences for students across all grade levels, as well as expand opportunities for students to participate in advanced and college level courses not available at their home schools. Telemedicine stations will permit students and their families to confer with medical and mental health professionals at each school-based wellness center. This project will benefit approximately 2,000 residents in Clay County.
- $434,779 – Pocahontas County Board of Education
- This rural development investment will be used to purchase distance learning supplies that will connect students K-7 grade and teachers, K-12 grade with Microsoft Surface Go 2 and Microsoft Surface Pro 7 devices. Pocahontas County Board of Education will facilitate remote and blended learning, expand capacity of educators with technology to support their ability to teach across campuses and inter-classroom co-teaching efforts, provide remote options for professional development and training for educators, and expand student focused mental health telemedicine capabilities in partnership with Youth Health Services, Inc. The project will benefit approximately 3,000 residents in rural West Virginia.
- $96,891 – Shepherd University
- This rural development investment will be used to fund the "Bridges to Degrees" project that creates pathways to postsecondary education for rural high school students by providing high-quality distance learning through live-streamed, synchronous dual enrollment courses offered at Shepherd University, located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Funding will outfit Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction and Martinsburg High School in Martinsburg with the technology needed to engage in these distance learning courses and equips the university campus with the hardware necessary to deliver these interactive courses. The university proposes to provide distance learning through synchronous live-streamed dual enrollment courses to over 400 eligible high school students per calendar year.
As a leader on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Capito helped create and secure funds in the FY2018 budget for the ReConnect program. Through her Capito Connect initiative, Senator Capito has made improving connectivity and closing the digital divide in West Virginia a top priority and has worked to advance efforts and deliver resources to support programs like ReConnect.
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