USDA Rural Development announced $4.1 million in grants for Illinois distance learning and telehealth projects, Illinois State Director Douglas Wilson said.

“The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program gives communities the technological access they need to bring educational and medical professionals together to provide the best care possible in rural Illinois,” Wilson said.

Nationwide, Rural Development is funding 116 projects, including six in Illinois. Through the program, health care and education institutions buy the equipment and software for distance learning and telemedicine.

The Illinois projects are:

  • Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 will use the funds to provide interactive videoconferencing distance learning classrooms to 14 rural schools across central Illinois and connect them to the Rural Illinois Shared Education Network. The expansion will also add additional classroom space for Chestnut Health to meet increased demand for opioid and substance abuse education.
  • HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, will fund distance learning and telemedicine to address shortages of rural health professionals, including opioid and substance use disorder, educators, clinicians and behavioral health specialists. The project will also address a lack of access to critical and emergency department care and outpatient care.
  • Blackburn College, Carlinville, and 12 school districts in Macoupin and Montgomery counties will finish a distance learning project to increase science, technology, engineering and math opportunities and dual credit courses for 3,697 students, while providing teacher professional development.
  • Regional Office of Education in McLean and DeWitt counties will establish synchronous distance learning in rural high schools. The network will use interactive video conferencing equipment.
  • Shawnee Community College District, Ullin, will buy and provide distance learning equipment, technology and connectivity for students and teachers at 12 high schools within the college’s district. The network will serve faculty and residents at the college’s four extension centers and main campus.
  • Jersey Community Hospital, Jerseyville, will buy new telemedicine equipment with simulcast and licensing to establish a telemedicine program for pediatric patients in the emergency department and for high-risk pregnancies.