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Shenandoah Valley, Southwest Virginia awarded $11M to expand health care access

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The Shenandoah Valley and Southwest Virginia have been awarded nearly $11 million in federal funding to expand access to health care.

Awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (UDSA) Community Facilities Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program, funding is made possible by the American Rescue Plan. The grant program helps rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to services and nutrition assistance.

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced the $10,968,600 in funding today.

“All Virginians, no matter where they live, should have access to high-quality, reliable health care,” they said. “We’re glad this funding will help expand telehealth services, improve capacity for mental health and substance use treatment programs, and update essential medical equipment so that more Virginians can get the care they need.”

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • $5,118,100for the Virginia Consortium to Advance Health Care in Appalachia to increase access to telehealth by expanding regional networks that will share resources, training, and educational opportunities for people living in rural areas throughout the Commonwealth. The Consortium includes the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Center for Telehealth, the Healthy Appalachia Institute at UVA’s College at Wise, the Southwest Virginia Health Authority, the Health Wagon, Tri-Area Health, and Ballad Health.
  • $5,000,000for the Mount Rogers Community Services (MRCS) Smyth County campus to expand access to mental health, developmental disability, and substance use disorder treatment. The funding will be used to create a second eight-bed unit at the Rhea B. Lawrence Recovery Center, which will double the space available for residential services. It will also be used to relocate the crisis care center from an offsite facility to centralize treatments and offer referral-based outpatient services in one location. These steps will help improve the quality of care available to the 32,208 residents located in the Center’s service area, which includes Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, and Wythe counties and Galax.
  • $850,500for the Bath County Community Hospital to purchase an X-ray machine and an electronic medical records system subscription, which will give doctors quick access to health records from labs and clinic emergency rooms. The equipment was damaged in an electrical fire, forcing staff to use a portable machine that is inadequate in many cases. The equipment will benefit nearly 30,000 residents in Bath, Highland, and Alleghany counties.

The senators introduced the CONNECT for Health Act of 2023, which would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent telehealth flexibilities that were enacted during COVID, make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, and help improve health outcomes. In March 2023, they introduced the Save Rural Hospitals Act, which would help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural communities by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.