Rural health care gets $1b boost

USDA loans help improve access to health care services for 2.5 million people in rural communities in 41 states.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided more than $1 billion in fiscal 2017 to help improve access to health care services for 2.5 million people in rural communities in 41 states.

“USDA invests in a wide range of health care facilities – such as hospitals, clinics and treatment centers – to help ensure that rural residents have access to the same state-of-the-art care available in urban and metropolitan areas,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “I understand that building a prosperous rural America begins with healthy people. Ensuring that rural communities have access to quality medical care is a top priority for USDA.”

USDA invested in 97 rural health care projects that served 2.5 million people in fiscal 2017 through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The loans can be used to fund essential community services. For health care, this includes constructing, expanding or improving health care facilities such as hospitals, medical clinics, dental clinics and assisted-living facilities, as well as to purchase equipment. Public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized tribes in rural areas and towns with up to 20,000 people are eligible for these loans.

USDA financed Community Facilities direct loan projects in the following states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The following are a few examples of rural health care projects that USDA funded during fiscal 2017:

  • LifeQuest Nursing Center received a $40 million loan to build a 123-unit assisted-living facility in Quakertown, Pa. The company will also renovate and expand the kitchen and dining area, build a 10- to 15-bed memory care unit and build an activity room for memory care residents.
  • The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas Inc. received a $2.8 million loan to construct a 14,000 sq. ft. health clinic that will house medical, dental and behavioral health services, a pharmacy and support services. The new facility, in Iola, Kan., will enable the center to expand services, hire more staff and care for more patients. More than 13,000 residents will benefit.
  • Rural Development provided a $6.7 million loan to Valley Wide Health Systems Inc. in Cañon City, Colo., (Fremont County) to convert a building to an integrated care center for primary, dental and behavioral health services. Consolidating these services into one building will provide better patient care and eliminate the need for patients to travel to different locations. The clinic anticipates an increase of more than 4,000 patients during its first year of operation.

Funding from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan program is playing a major role in Ontario, Ohio. Avita Health System received $91.4 million to transform a vacant section of a shopping mall into a state-of-the-art hospital that provides vital health care, including substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. These services are essential for Ohio communities that have been affected by the opioid epidemic in recent years. The hospital, which opened in March 2017, serves more than 124,000 rural residents in Richland and Crawford counties.

In addition to health care, the new hospital is providing an economic boost in the form of good-paying, rural-based jobs. It has also been a lifeline to struggling stores and businesses by increasing foot traffic (and, therefore, business) in what had been a dying shopping mall that struggled after the closure of one of its major anchor stores.

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