Tombigbee Healthcare Authority to receive $900,000

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh and Alabama State Director Ronnie Davis joined Tombigbee Healthcare Authority (THA) officials in Demopolis today to highlight a recent grant to help THA expand mobile healthcare services to six west Alabama counties. This award was previously announced in September by USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien.

“USDA is proud to partner with local organizations like the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority to provide federal funding for projects designed to expand critically-needed healthcare services in underserved communities such as these,” said Kunesh. “Rural residents living in poverty in the Delta Regions often struggle to meet even the most basic needs. Working together, we have an opportunity to affect real and lasting change here.”

USDA Rural Development is providing a $900,000 grant to the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority that will be used to train nursing students who support THA’s “Healthcare on Wheels,” a mobile unit that provides healthcare services, health literacy and education, telemedicine services and community outreach. The mobile services will be provided in Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Sumter, and Wilcox counties.

THA also received a grant from USDA Rural Development in 2011, for more than $384,700, to help the Authority purchase a customized mobile healthcare van – a stand-alone unit capable of providing healthcare and clinical services. Funds for the 2011 grant and the one highlighted today were provided through Rural Development’s Delta Health Care Services Grant program, established under the 2008 Farm Bill. The program is a collaborative effort among health care professionals, institutions of higher education, research institutions and other entities.

USDA has several programs and initiatives to create jobs and stimulate investment in rural areas. The Department’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative, for example,

provides technical assistance and financial resources in high-poverty areas. Through StrikeForce, Rural Development employees partner with local leaders to ensure that low-income communities are taking advantage of all possible USDA resources and funding opportunities.

According to Davis, 23 Alabama counties are part of USDA’s StrikeForce initiative. “By increasing our participation in outreach meetings, onsite visits, and events like this one today, we can provide more detailed information, share best practices and success stories with people who

Contact: Beverly Helton, (334)-462-7799

are eligible for USDA program assistance,” Davis said. “A variety of USDA programs are available to public bodies, such as city and county governments, agricultural producers and landowners, non-profits, homeowners, as well as healthcare, education, and telecommunication providers, to improve the quality of life throughout rural Alabama.”

During her visit, Deputy Under Secretary Kunesh participated in Tuskegee University’s 71st Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, providing attendees with information about the mission and successes of USDA’s StrikeForce initiative which included USDA Rural Development activities. While there, Kunesh met with Dr. Walter A. Hill, Provost and Dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, Miles Robinson, Director of the Small Farm and Rural Economic Development Center, and members of the Small Farmers Agricultural Cooperative to get a first-hand look at the University’s newly purchased refrigerated truck that was funded through USDA.

Rural Development provided the University with a $100,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant for the truck, which transports farm-fresh, local produce to an Alabama distribution center as part of a locally grown produce initiative between small, minority farmers and the Wal-Mart Corporation. Tuskegee University officials helped to facilitate this initiative, where members of the Small Farmers Agricultural Cooperative provide locally grown peas, greens and watermelons for sale in select Wal-Mart stores.

Kunesh also participated in a roundtable discussion and visited with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Atmore and met with Marengo County economic development officials while in Demopolis.

Kunesh and Davis noted that today’s event to highlight the latest Tombigbee healthcare project is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and they said that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

For more information on Rural Development programs, contact the area offices in Camden, at (334) 682-4116, Opelika at (334) 745-7638, Tuscaloosa, at (205) 553-1733, or visit