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County accepts USDA grant
Funds to help counties with telemedicine, distance learning
new deh county workfit story barton county logo

The Barton County Commission Monday morning accepted the awarding of a United States Department of Agriculture Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant.

Barton, Ellsworth, Rice and Stafford counties were awarded $781,126.96 from the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, said county Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper. “This grant was a big collaboration.”

The funding will provide telehealth equipment to each county’s health department, the detention facilities in Barton and Ellsworth counties, and to Central Kansas Community Corrections and 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services, she said.    

In addition, the commission approved a bid from Solutionz of Los Angeles, Calif., totaling $898,296. Cooper solicited quotes from telemedicine vendors for equipment needed under the USDA grant and noted that this is a specialized project and there are no local vendors that can tackle it. 

Equipment under this bid will allow each of the counties to host telemedicine programs. This includes carts and cases, video and audio equipment, and installation and training. 

Cooper said she realizes the bid exceeds the grant amount. The balance will be divvied up among the participating counties based on the share of the funds spent in each one.

Most of the money will be spent in Barton County, since it is the home county of the judicial district. So, it will pay the largest portion.

On Oct. 7, the USDA Rural Development announced the funding. The grant will:

• Connect existing county services to critical health-care providers.

• The interactive equipment will allow Barton and Ellsworth county jails remote access to nursing and physician services and decrease the costs associated with transporting inmates.  

• Clients of the Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, and Stafford county health departments will access public health services remotely. 

• Central Kansas Community Corrections and the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services will be able to provide vital counseling, treatment, and educational programs that address substance use disorder. 

• Create regional access to essential health-care services and improve patient outcomes. 

The announcement was in conjunction with a larger announcement made by USDA, where it was investing $72 million in 40 states through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program These investments will benefit more than 12 million rural residents.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. 

For more information, visit or call 785-271-2700.

Spending of grant funds approved

On Monday morning, the Barton County Commission approved the expenditure of the remaining $31,968.91 in Healthy Community Initiative grant funding from the Kansas Health Foundation. 

The funds were earmarked for travel and training, but these didn’t happed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said county Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper. So, the money had to be reallocated.

Cooper submitted a proposal to the KHF asking that the balance be used for purchases, reimbursements, and/or other expenditures up to the amount specified. The foundation has signed off on this spending plan, she said.