Two Maine health organizations are receiving USDA grants to provide opioid-addiction treatment for patients in rural areas and to fund drug recovery-training for professionals.
"In rural areas, access to healthcare has been identified as one of those issues that's a barrier to treatment, or a barrier to recovery," says USDA Rural Development State Director Tim Hobbs.
Hobbs says the Maine Rural Health Collaborative will receive almost $480,000 to establish a telemedicine system linking providers in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties, with drug treatment specialists elsewhere in Maine and New Hampshire.
Hobbs says the project will serve more than 115,000 people across those counties. They would go to a local health center to receive treatment via high quality video link and, he says, perhaps have to travel only 30 minutes instead of two hours.
Hobbs says treating remote patients from home has been discussed, but rural internet just isn't reliable enough.
"That is the limiting factor,” he says. “The availability of that high quality internet just isn't there today."
Maine Quality Counts will receive more than $87,000 to provide distance-opioid recovery training to law enforcement, health workers and others.
The funds are part of a $37 million USDA package designed to address opioid misuse through more rural telemedicine.