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Federal funding will aid with telehealth services

South Alabama Rural Health Associates will receive more than $730,000 in federal funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.

SARHA was one of 33 facilities which received more than $8.36 million in funding in the sixth round of awards announced Wednesday by the Federal Communications Commission.

“It’s such a blessing,” said Melissa Bradford, director of planning and development for SARHA.

Bradford said SARHA applied for the funding in April and after five rounds of awards, she was pleasantly surprised to learn of the award on Wednesday.

The $732,827 will be used to expand telehealth services across the 10 community health centers operated by SARHA, providing video and voice consults and remote treatment to its patient population for ongoing primary health care services and for COVID-19 screening, testing and treatment. “All 10 of our locations are testing sites, and in multiple counties we’ve diagnosed more than 50 percent of the cases in that county,” Bradford said.

In addition, SARHA serves some 35,000 patients across its 10 clinics, many of who may have been delaying in-person visits for primary care services due to concerns about the COVID-19 situation.

“A lot of people are not coming in for primary care appointments, and we need to be able to reach those people, especially people with conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes,” Bradford said. “Telehealth is providing us the tool to do so.”

To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 82 health care providers in 30 states for a total of $33.26 million. Funding is provided through the CARES Act.