Foundation for Rural Service Launches ‘Virtual Living Room℠’ Grant Program to Support Telehealth Initiatives in Rural America

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Withers, lwithers@ntca.org, (703) 351-2087

Foundation for Rural Service Launches ‘Virtual Living Room℠’ Grant Program to Support Telehealth Initiatives in Rural America 

Cooperative Lender CoBank Named Exclusive Sponsor

Arlington, Va., (February 7, 2019)—The Foundation for Rural Service today launched a new grant program to support veteran communities served by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association members that lack easy access to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics. The “Virtual Living Room℠” grant program will provide funding to create spaces in rural communities where veterans can use the robust broadband connections provided by local telecommunications providers to access VA telehealth services. CoBank, one of the largest private providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy, is the grant program’s exclusive sponsor.

Virtual Living Rooms are intended to act as comfortable, local spaces where veterans, who often cannot travel to the nearest VA hospital, can access an internet connection and therefore, virtually meet with a doctor or access other telehealth services. The ability to connect remotely with healthcare professionals can save travel time and costs for veterans and provide crucial assistance with continued care chronic conditions, as well as treatment for acute illnesses such as a virus or infection. The nation’s first Virtual Living Room opened in McKee, Ky., in October 2017 to enable U.S. service veterans to access broadband-enabled VA telehealth and other online services for no fee at publicly accessible locations.

Virtual Living Rooms can be installed at local libraries, churches, community centers or other locations unique to each rural area. Communities that are located more than an hour away from a VA clinic or hospital, and within the service territory of an NTCA member, are encouraged to apply for these $5,000 grants to support the creation of a Virtual Living Room.

“The Foundation for Rural Service is so pleased to be able to offer this new grant opportunity and bring health care support closer to those who have served our country and live in rural areas where access to care is a challenge, but connectivity is not,” said FRS Executive Director Jessica Golden. “Leveraging the broadband connections provided by NTCA member telcos to provide essential services and help rural veterans thrive is a fantastic way to celebrate the foundation’s 25th anniversary this year.”

“CoBank is tremendously proud to serve as the exclusive sponsor of the Virtual Living Room program,” said Rob West, CoBank’s executive vice president of Infrastructure Banking. “NTCA, FRS and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have worked diligently to create a plan that will replicate the success of the original Virtual Living Room pilot. We applaud their innovation and their commitment to increasing health care access for our nation’s rural veterans.”

For more information about the FRS Virtual Living Room Grant Program, or for guidance on how to apply, visit www.FRS.org or contact foundation@frs.org. Applications are available online and will be considered on a rolling basis beginning Feb. 8, 2019.

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