Just this past June, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced five Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant awards to help provide treatment for the growing opioid epidemic in rural central Appalachia. The DLT award includes nearly $1.4 million for five projects in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to help these areas address the epidemic.

Included in the award is a $377,121 grant going to The Baptist Health Foundation Corbin, Inc. that will help connect clinical specialists to 10 school-based health centers and two primary care sites. Baptist Health found its way to the grant award through the Polycom Grant Assistance Program. We had a chance to speak with Chris Holcomb, Executive Director of Behavioral Health at Baptist Health and Anthony Powers, Vice President of Patient Care at the organization to talk about the grants process and what they plan on doing with this highly sought after award. Here’s what they had to say:

PSV: Can you talk a little bit about the challenges you were facing that drove you to apply for the USDA grant and develop your program?

CH: One of the biggest barriers for individuals residing in a rural area is the distance to see a specialist.  Economic hardships for families should not prevent them from receiving quality care.  Our commitment is to improve the lives of individuals in our communities so we decided that creating various telemedicine access points would help to reduce that problem.  Another challenge has been the sustained recruitment of medical providers in our rural area.  By offering telemedicine as a component of our treatment model, we can cast a larger net to recruit providers without having them commute to our hub location.  

PSV: How did you get started with the grants process? And what was your experience with the Polycom Grant Assistance Team?

 AP: From a quality and care transitions standpoint, we realized a gap in our medical-based services and felt that telemedicine could help fill that void.  I reached out to various professionals nationwide and learned of the potential grant opportunities.  We formed a great relationship with the Polycom Grant Assistance Team and they have been absolutely amazing.  They are a dedicated group with amazing subject matter experts.  They helped us to navigate through the grant process while coordinating every meeting.  They are truly remarkable and I can’t emphasize that enough.

 PSV: Can you tell us at a high level what your plans are for your telemedicine/treatment program at Baptist Health? 

CH: The ultimate goal is to give our customers another option in their medical care instead of the traditional face-to-face appointment.  Our hope is to start with a telemedicine program within the behavioral health specialty and expand services to other professional disciplines.  Some of our goals include: reducing wait times for appointments, decreasing consumer costs via travel, and developing a statewide system of providers to meet the needs of our customers.

PSV: How do you see your telemedicine program helping address the opioid crisis in Kentucky and Tennessee?

CH: The opioid epidemic has been widespread in central Appalachia for roughly two decades and overdose deaths continue to steadily rise.  Our goal is to provide more access points for care and consultation.  Individuals battling substance use disorders typically don’t understand where or how to seek treatment.  We plan to utilize telemedicine to help patients determine the appropriate level of care so they can begin their journey to recovery.

 PSV: Are there any tips or advice you could give others interested in pursuing a grant for collaboration technology?

CH: The Polycom Grant Assistance Team is very knowledgeable and I would recommend them for anyone considering a technology grant.  Be sure to involve as many community stakeholders as you can, even outside your agency, because collaborative relationships can help secure the resources needed for the greater goal of improving community health.


Are you part of an organization looking to implement telemedicine but need help with funding? The Polycom Grants Assistance Team is here to help! Click here to find out more.