Tappahannock, Virginia: Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance (BRTA) has been awarded federal grant funds of $1.2 million over 4 years starting September 1, 2016 for its School Based Telehealth Initiative. BRTA will work with the Essex, Northumberland, and Westmoreland County Public Schools to bring healthcare services directly into schools giving students in these rural areas greater access to healthcare. The school-based health services will focus on improving access to care and improving outcomes of chronic health conditions including asthma, obesity reduction and prevention, and diabetes, plus behavioral health and oral healthcare.

The federal funding comes from the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services Telehealth Network Grant Program which exists to increase access to healthcare in rural areas through the expansion of telehealth technology. BRTA will partner with the three school districts, Riverside Health System, VCU Health System, Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Services Board, Rappahannock Community College, the Virginia Department of Health, Community Health Solutions and the Center for Rural Health Innovation.

BRTA’s executive director, Donna Dittman Hale, said “This is a tremendous opportunity to increase the access of rural children in Essex, Northumberland, and Westmoreland counties to high quality healthcare via modern telehealth technologies. We are delighted to be working with our partners over the coming 4 years to make a positive difference in the lives of these children.” BRTA has announced the hiring of Iris Lane as Project Coordinator whose extensive experience in grant management, educational and healthcare leadership uniquely qualifies her to work with the organizations involved to implement this Initiative.

Iris Lane states “As a Westmoreland County native and retiree of the U.S. Department of Education, I am humbled, honored, and excited to be involved in such a meaningful and fulfilling project. This Initiative has the potential to have a major and positive impact on keeping our students healthy. In turn, healthy students are better able to learn, and evidence has shown School-Based Telehealth Programs result in a decrease in absenteeism. This innovative program is a “win-win” for our school systems, parents, medical providers, students, and our local communities.”

Following a year of studying each county’s health needs, developing protocols and connections for delivery of care in the schools and setting up communication systems between doctors, parents, students and school health nurses, telehealth equipment will begin being installed in each school to deliver health care services.

About Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance: BRTA is a mature telehealth network whose member organizations strive to serve communities in Eastern Virginia by developing telehealth projects that: Improve access to health services; Engage patients as partners; Reduce professional isolation among health service providers; and Provide access to training and development of the health care workforce.