By Mike Lillis
The Obama administration on Monday announced the release of $32 million designed to prop up healthcare services in rural areas that often lack for providers.
The funding — taken from this year's White House healthcare budget — targets seven separate programs, though a vast bulk of it ($22 million) will go to improve care and coordination around the Critical Access Hospital program.
That initiative, created in 1997, grants a host of incentives to provider networks that operate in low-density rural spots.
"These funds reflect the priorities spelled out by President Obama in providing the best health care possible to rural Americans," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "The ultimate goal is to build healthier rural populations and communities."
Other programs benefiting from the funds include:
• More than $3 million for the Rural Health Workforce Development Program, a temporary initiative designed to recruit and retain healthcare professions in rural regions.
• More than $2 million for the Telehealth Network Grant Program, which aims to deliver healthcare services remotely, precluding the need for rural patients to travel long distances to get care.
• Almost $1 million for the Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program, designed to find innovative ways to provide mental health services to rural vets.