The USDA Helps Rural Healthcare? Yes! March 22, 2012, the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona hosted a regional meeting in Phoenix upon the request of the federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The purpose of this meeting was to build partnerships to leverage available USDA resources for rural providers. You may be asking yourself, “The US Department of Agriculture provides funding for rural healthcare in America?” Likely you are not alone if you asked that question.

It may be surprising to many, but the USDA is a source of grants, low-interest loans and other types of funding under their rural development’s Business and Cooperative Programs. We will be posting more information about these funding sources and a detailed report about the meeting in the coming weeks but I thought I would share some details with you now about the meeting.

As I mentioned, this was a regional meeting with representatives from Arizona, Nevada and Utah in attendance. Representatives from the state office of rural health in the three states kicked off the meeting by setting the context and reviewing the meeting outcomes.

Next, we included two panel discussions. The first panel featured state USDA representatives and these individuals reviewed the different funding streams available to rural health providers. The second panel reviewed hospital capital financing needs and how the USDA programs might be able to meet these needs.

We had a working lunch session featuring two hospital CEOs who had successfully obtained USDA and shared the process and their experiences with those in the room. First, Jeff Hamblen, the CEO of Little Colorado Medical Center in Winslow, Arizona, spoke about how the funding he received from the USDA enabled the construction of a $15 million emergency department. This department will have its official opening on March 28, 2012. Next, Roy Barraclough, CEO of the Moab Regional Hospital in Moab, Utah, shared his experiences.

Following these case studies, we broke into state-specific working groups to discuss how we might be able to build partnerships and leverage resources between the USDA and rural providers in each of the three participating states.

Finally, we ended with reports by each working group and a discussion of next steps.

So, please look for a report about this meeting coming soon to this website. In the interim, if this funding source has piqued your interest, feel free to contact Joyce Hospodar, Manager of Health Systems Development for the Center for Rural Health (

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