WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) are welcoming announcements from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development that several projects in New Mexico will receive a combined $927,966 through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants program.
The funding is made available through the CARES Act that Senators Heinrich and Luján helped pass in 2020. Senators Heirnich and Luján and Representative Leger Fernández will continue working to support broadband and telehealth opportunities throughout New Mexico.
A summary for the USDA Rural Development awards are:
“I fought to include funding in the CARES Act that ensures that rural broadband and telehealth services can continue to expand – even amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to see this funding be awarded to a variety of projects across New Mexico that provide critical education and health care services to those that need it most. I will keep fighting to ensure that New Mexico’s higher education and health care systems have the resources they need to make sure our state emerges from this storm stronger, and more connected than before.”
“For New Mexico’s higher ed institutions and health care providers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that Internet technology is essential to their work. Unfortunately, one year into this pandemic, many colleges and health care providers still lack the necessary tools to best serve New Mexicans,” said Luján. “This strong investment from the USDA will allow New Mexico Highlands University and Fort Lewis College to offer greater academic offerings and student support, and allow our rural clinics to provide pediatric, women’s, and behavioral telehealth services to tens of thousands of New Mexicans.”
“I’ve spoken with leaders and communities across my district, from our eastern borders, to our northwest quadrant, and it’s clear that countless New Mexicans living in rural and Tribal communities have faced this pandemic without the technology infrastructure they need to learn or to receive telemedical care,” said Leger Fernández. “This funding will help eliminate the barriers in accessing education and provide essential technology to expand access to health care services for these communities.”
New Mexico Highlands University is receiving $510,363 to create a distance learning hub/end-user site at the main campus in Las Vegas, and at a second end-user site in Mora, N.M. The system will eliminate barriers to higher education for residents of remote communities in San Miguel and Mora counties. This funding will enable New Mexico Highlands University to offer remote courses and to implement remote student support programs (especially for STEM students). In addition to equipping the remote site, the project will fund the purchase of computers configured specifically for distance learning. These computers will be loaned to students. The Mora site also be made available to community members for activities such as workforce development.
“NMHU is a regional comprehensive university and we take that term “regional” very seriously. This wonderful award will enable us to more powerfully serve the region in new and more powerful ways. Many thanks to the USDA for collaborating with us on this important project,” said NMHU President Sam Minner.
An investment of $263,640 will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to help Santa Teresa Children's Day and Night Clinic implement a comprehensive health care and wellness programs. Six fully-equipped and upgraded telemedicine carts will be provided to five hub/end-user sites. These sites include three elementary schools and two community clinics. Each site will have the capacity to receive primary care services for children and adults, women's health, and mental health and behavior services, including substance misuse prevention and treatment. The sites are expected to serve approximately 14,000 people in Dona Ana, Socorro, Sierra and Union counties.
Ben Archer Health Centers is receiving an approved grant of $153,963 to provide remote medical, dental and behavioral health care services for underserved and uninsured patients, and distance learning education for health care professionals in Dona Ana, Luna, Otero and Sierra counties. An interactive system involving telemedicine carts with accessories will enable live audio-video interactions between health care professionals and patients. Teleconference equipment for conference rooms will facilitate distance learning and group sessions, and laptops for medical, dental and behavioral providers will be used to provide services to patients in rural communities.
Fort Lewis College will also receive $950,060 that will help the college implement a distance learning system to connect students in areas that include San Juan County in New Mexico. The distance learning program will help improve academic outcomes, advance student well-being and strengthen partnerships with tribal governments and rural communities while bridging the digital divide for Fort Lewis College students.