The U.S. Department of Agriculture Nov. 19 announced $23.4 million for 75 projects in 31 states and the Western Pacific to expand distance learning and telemedicine opportunities in rural areas.

In Maine, six organizations have been selected to receive a total of $2.68 million in grant funds for distance learning and telemedicine projects in Maine communities. Historically Maine has been among the top states in terms of these awards, as it is again this year, one of the top three states tied for number of recipients funded.

Among the Maine recipients is Kno-Wal-Lin Health Care Management Inc. in Rockland, which will recieve $130,000. The funds will be used to provide tele-homecare monitors, plus integrated peripherals, to elderly, disabled and chronically ill residents of rural Maine. Through remote patient monitoring, improved integration of patient information, and quicker response times for practitioners when patients are in jeopardy, patients will receive the timely care needed to prevent emergency room visits, hospitalization and institutionalization.

The use of the proposed home monitoring system and video-links will allow health professionals and patients to interact in a more frequent and timely manner. Patients will experience reduced stress, a reduced need to travel to and from health care services, and will save time and money. Individuals will experience an increased quality of life and be able to remain at home as long as possible, despite having age-related handicaps and illnesses.

The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Developmentā€™s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. They may be used to purchase equipment to provide educational and telemedicine services to rural communities.