Better access to health care coming for students in five rural Kentucky counties

Students at schools in six rural Kentucky counties will get better access to doctors through a new grant from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a grant to the Institute for Health Innovation at Northern Kentucky University to expand telehealth in Pendleton, Owen, Carroll, Grant, and Gallatin County schools. 

St. Elizabeth physicians and the NKU Institute provide telemedicine in some schools now, allowing students who get sick in school to see St. E physicians through videoconferencing. Minor acute issues such as sore throat, ear pain or injuries can be diagnosed as reoccurring chronic issues such as asthma. If needed, additional testing or an in-person visit can be guided by the doctors.

The grant, worth $182,792, will also allow NorthKey Community Care, in partnership with Three Rivers District Health Department and the NKU Institute, to offer virtual treatment for substance abuse disorders in these counties as well.

NorthKey is a 55-year-old community-based provider of mental health, substance use, and developmental disabilities services in eight Northern Kentucky counties.

The grant will also allow NKU to develop telemedicine and telehealth clinical and practicum sites for its nursing and social work programs.

The project is part of a $50 million investment by the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, which is funding 105 projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. The program focuses on distance learning and telehealth services in rural communities that would otherwise have limited or no access to these services.

“Placing telemedicine and telehealth sites in schools, county health departments, and other local spaces means people can get assistance as they are going about their daily lives, instead of having to figure out how to transport themselves or their families to other counties for care,” says Dr. Valerie Hardcastle, St. Elizabeth Healthcare executive director of the Institute for Health Innovation and NKU vice president for health innovation.

“This grant will also allow NKU to train the next generation of health care providers in telehealth and telemedicine so that they will graduate ready for 21st century medicine,” she says.

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