New Opportunities for Telehealth Providers to Help Rural Schools

Beginning in 2016, the Federal government offered a new grant program for school districts to get funding for telehealth support. Many districts took advantage of these grants and implemented telehealth activities for their students, especially mental and behavioral health programs. As you can imagine, these programs really took off during the pandemic. Sometimes school-based telehealth was the only healthcare students and their families could access.

Government funds help schools

During the pandemic the Federal government created more grants and set aside more money for telehealth programs. For example, in February of 2022 the University of Mississippi Medical Center received a $17.6 million grant from the State Department of Education to provide more of the state’s students access to Telehealth.

This initial money came from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Then in March of 2022 the Rescue Plan opened $122 billion of funds for school districts to use in both tech-based and non-tech ways.  

Telehealth helps in rural areas

Studies conducted before the pandemic showed that children in rural areas already lacked healthcare opportunities compared to their urban peers. According to this article, secondary-school age kids in small rural areas were more often overweight  (41.6%) when compared with urban kids (29.7%). Before the pandemic, children in rural areas had less access to preventative care (71.4%) than urban kids (75.8%). Also, rural kids had less access to preventative dental care (74.0%) compared to urban children (80.2%).

On the other hand, children in rural areas more often had 60 minutes of daily physical activity (25.8%), the recommended amount for health, compared to urban children (18.9%).

The Mississippi grant will give K-12 kids more access to healthcare during school hours through a telehealth delivery system, including urgent care and behavioral health care. The grant will also increase accessibility to healthcare for students in rural areas.

What can you do?

Providers can work with school administrators to create community groups tasked with starting healthcare programs in rural areas. Your efforts can help create a great public-private partnership by working with local philanthropic groups that are interested in providing healthcare to kids in rural areas, especially mental health care. You can use this link to find a foundation in your area.