NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The United States Department of Agriculture announced nationwide investments to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. Of the $42.3 million total amount invested in 35 states plus American Samoa, Guam Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, over $900,000 will go towards efforts in New Mexico.
New Mexico Highlands University will receive an award of $510,363 in order to create a distance-learning hub site at the school’s main campus in Las Vegas as well as a second site in Mora. The system is meant to eliminate barriers to higher education for residents in remote communities of San Miguel and Mora counties.
The funding will allow the college to offer remote courses and to implement remote student support programs. Additionally, the funding will allow for the purchase of computers specifically designed for distance learning which will be loaned to students. According to the USDA, the Mora site will also be made available to community members for workforce development.
An investment of $263,640 will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to help Santa Theresa Children’s Day and Night Clinic utilize healthcare and wellness programs. The USDA states that six fully-equipped and upgraded telemedicine carts will be provided to five hub/end-user sites.
The sites are reported to include three elementary schools and two community clinics with each having the capacity to receive primary care services for both children and adults, women’s health, and mental health and behavior services. This will include substance misuse prevention and treatment. According to the USDA, the sites will serve about 14,000 people in Dona Ana, Socorro, Sierra, and Union counties.
The final investment of $153,963 will be used to provide remote medical, dental, and behavioral health care services for underserved and uninsured patients, as well as distance learning education for health care professionals in Dona Ana, Luna, Otero, and Sierra counties at the Ben Archer Health Care Center. The department says that an interactive system that involves telemedicine carts will allow for live audio and video interactions between health care professionals and patients.
USDA reports teleconference equipment for conference rooms will allow for distance learning, group sessions, as well as laptops for medical, dental and behavioral providers to offer services to patients in rural communities.