Saturday, 04 February 2023

Federal Grant for rural health care would benefit Lake County

SACRAMENTO – At its annual conference this week, the California State Rural Health Association is discussing a $22 million federal grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded to California for the improvement of rural health care through expansion of telemedicine technology.


The grant was awarded to the California Telehealth Network, a coalition led by the University of California, in partnership with government agencies and healthcare providers, including the California State Rural Healthcare Association, according to a statement from the office of state Sen. Patricia Wiggins' office. The group will work together to bring modern health care services to rural, underserved areas of California.


Telehealth and telemedicine services provide patients in rural areas with access to critically needed medical specialists in urban areas through video conferencing, Wiggins' office reported. With this new technology, urban doctors can monitor patients, make diagnoses and assist in treating patients in rural areas from long distances.


As members of the California Legislative Rural Caucus, Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) and Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) actively supported the California Telehealth Network’s grant application by working with Congress and contacting the FCC to ensure California received its share of the federal funding.


The two legislators say they were very pleased by the news of the award.


“This federal grant will help us to expand broadband networks for telemedicine, which will enable us to connect medical experts to clinics in some of the most remote regions of California,” Berg said.


Wiggins agreed, saying that “it is critical that our state sets the standard with this new technology, which will enable us to save time, save money and, most importantly, save lives.”


Rural Caucus Chair Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) commended Wiggins and Berg for their hard work on behalf of rural Californians, noting, “I have been very impressed how the members of the Rural Caucus pulled together to fight for this funding. The senator and assemblymember have been tireless advocates for this important grant. I am grateful to have them as members of our team.”


The $22 million grant award comes on top of the $200 million allocated in Proposition 1D to build telemedicine capacity around the state, Wiggins' office reported. The award will build upon existing networks and connect approximately 300 health care providers that are currently unconnected to telemedicine services.


The California Legislative Rural Caucus is a bipartisan group created to protect and promote rural California and its interests. It is comprised of 45 members from the California State Assembly and Senate that represent rural areas throughout California.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, reported that over the next three years the grant would be distributed to a number of North Coast health care providers, including several in and around Lake County.


In year two, Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport would receive funds, as would Potter Valley Community Health Center and Round Valley Indian Health Center.


The following year, the Lake County Tribal Health Consortium in Lakeport, and Mendocino Community Health Clinic in both Lakeport and Ukiah, would receive funds.


Miller did not have information at this time on the amount of grant money each local health care provider would receive.


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