USDA Rural Development awards $651,207 to Southeastern


Thursday, March 21, 2024 USDA Grant announcement
by: Tonya Lowentritt 

HEALTH GRANT AWARDED -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $651,207  grant to Southeastern Louisiana University through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program to fund Southeastern’s telehealth project. Pictured are, from left, Southeastern President William S. Wainwright; Kelly Rabalais, vice-president of communications and strategy at St. Tammany Parish Health System; Cheryl Hall, director of Sponsored Research and Contracts; USDA Rural Development Louisiana State Director Deirdre Deculus Robert; Ann Carruth, dean of the Southeastern College of Nursing and Health Sciences; USDA General Field Representative for Arkansas and Louisiana Tony Matlock; Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tena Golding; Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller; Bronwyn Doyle, assistant vice-president of workforce strategy at St. Tammany Parish Health System; and Mike Whittington, CEO of Hood Memorial Hospital.

     HAMMOND – The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced this week that it is awarding Southeastern Louisiana University a sizable grant to help support medical professionals. The organization awarded $651,207 to the university through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program to fund Southeastern’s telehealth project.
     USDA Rural Development Louisiana State Director Deirdre Deculus Robert said the funds will enable Southeastern to provide telehealth carts, peripherals, and portable telehealth kits to equip three hub sites and several end-users throughout Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, St. Helena, Washington, and Livingston parishes. 
     “This project is a ‘win-win’ for all involved. Not only will rural community citizens receive much needed health care monitoring, but our students will also obtain real-world training as well,” said Southeastern President William S. Wainwright. “We have had amazing success with projects to improve health care in our area communities from two previous USDA grants, and I know this project will be just as successful and have significant, positive impacts on our rural communities.”
     Ann Carruth, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and principal investigator for the grant, said all of the parishes in the service area have been designated as Medically Underserved Areas, as well as Primary and Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. 
     According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (2017), Louisiana rates near the top in the nation with highest death rates from chronic diseases: first in septicemia, second in kidney disease, third in stroke, and fifth in heart disease and cancer. In its 2021 Community Needs Assessment, need was noted for access to continuity of care, mental and behavioral health, and education and health literacy.
     Southeastern’s project will benefit 167,016 individuals through hub sites including Hood Memorial Hospital in Amite City and St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington. It will have a predominant focus on telehealth with a secondary use of distance learning for health careers, particularly those with a mental health focus. Each site will connect to specialty providers of their choice to bring specialty care with an emphasis on mental health, hospitalists, emergency care, and chronic disease. 
     The hub/end-user sites will pilot test Healthcare at Home, a project designed to retain patients in care, avoid unnecessary Emergency Department usage, and protect immune compromised individuals from hospital and healthcare setting-acquired infections. As part of the project, loaner telehealth devices for patients to use at home will be provided, as well as portable telehealth devices for nurses, health coaches, and other care professionals to use during home visits.
     Southeastern will use the project to provide healthcare career distance learning education to the classroom sites. They will also use it to provide tele-supervision and precepting to nursing students during clinical rotations at the sites, with a focus on psychiatric nurse practitioners.

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