The U.S. Department of Agriculture today said that it would prioritize applications for telemedicine grants that aim to address opioid misuse in rural communities. The grants are available through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program.

USDA is granting as many as 30 special consideration points for projects that support opioid treatment services in 220 at-risk counties. Grant applications falling into this category must be submitted by April 15.

The USDA also is granting as many as 10 special consideration points for other opioid-related DLT projects or for those that provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as their primary purpose. Those applications must be submitted by May 15.

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“The opioid epidemic is dramatically impacting prosperity in many small towns and rural places across the country,” said Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, in a prepared statement. “With this focused investment, we are targeting our resources to be a strong partner to rural communities to build innovative local responses to this significant challenge.”

Today’s announcement is part of an ongoing effort to attempt to combat the opioid epidemic.

Last year, USDA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy established a White House Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group, which was designed to facilitate the coordination of federal resources in rural America. Last December, these agencies launched the Community Opioid Misuse Toolbox. The toolbox includes the Community Resource Guide, a comprehensive directory of federal resources that can help rural communities address the opioid crisis, and the Community Assessment Tool, an interactive database to help community leaders assess how and why the opioid epidemic is impacting their regions.

All DLT applications can be submitted electronically at grants.gov or in hard copy to: USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2844, Mail Stop 1597, Washington, DC 20250-1597.

Image courtesy of flickr user jfcherry.

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