If you are looking to secure grant funding for a new or expanding telehealth program, you’re most likely already looking into, or at least familiar with, the USDA’s RUS-DLT grant program.  Many innovative projects were funded last year, and there’s a lot of buzz about the upcoming 2017 grant. The application period is coming up in the spring, and many are wondering how to prepare for RUS-DLT, and what to expect as their applications move throughout the process.

To gain insight and hear first-hand experience, we recently had a chance to sit down with Randy Cole, CEO Circle Park Behavioral Health who worked with the Polycom Grants Team this last year to secure a grant for the equipment needed to spearhead a telemedicine program in the state of South Carolina. Today he shares some insights into the grants process, some tips for preparation and what potential applicants may expect. Here’s what Randy had to say.

WorkSpace Today: Can you tell us a little bit about Circle Park Behavioral Health and the Behavioral Health Services Association (BHSA) of South Carolina?

Randy Cole: The Behavioral Health Services Association of South Carolina is a nonprofit that was formed to support the  33 substance abuse agencies in South Carolina.  All of the agencies at minimum offer prevention and outpatient substance abuse treatment.  Several of the agencies offer Detoxification and residential services. The association was created to protect and support agencies like Circle Park and ensure information is disseminated amongst the system. This year, I worked with the Polycom Grants Team who helped us get through the RUS-DLT application process to fund a telehealth program here. Being that most of South Carolina is rural in nature and given the needs we have, the RUS-DLT grant seemed to be the best fit for us.

WorkSpace Today: Could you tell us about the project that was funded by this last year’s RUS-DLT program?

Randy Cole: Because most of South Carolina is rural, there are many people we aren’t able to treat for substance abuse problems. The opioid epidemic remains an issue here and we believe that telehealth is one way to address the problem. The larger goal of this program is to continue educating the system to utilize telehealth, whether it is for training, clinical supervision, follow up appointments, or even referrals. We also plan to use telehealth with our community partners – like social services and school districts for referrals and exchanges.

WorkSpace Today: We heard you had the opportunity to work with the Polycom grants team – can you talk a little bit about your experiences with them and how they helped you through the process?

Randy Cole:  I really can’t say enough about the Polycom Grants Team, and how smooth they made the process for us. The team continuously kept me informed about where paperwork was throughout the process and what needed to be done next. They were incredibly informative about scoring and implementation. The ongoing communication was beyond my expectations.

WorkSpace Today: What best practices or tips can you share with readers who are preparing for the 2017 RUS-DLT grant?

Randy Cole: I think one of the key things applicants should be cognizant of as they go through the process is to ensure you have the upfront match needed to secure the grant. I also think it’s very important that you remain flexible regarding your expectations as your program vision may need to change based on what the grant covers.

WorkSpace Today: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the grants process, your telemedicine program or technology in general?

Randy Cole: To others preparing for the RUS-DLT grant, I would say one of the most important things you can do is start early. Applicants should already have begun research and conversations with stakeholders for next years grant. Make sure you have as much of your paperwork as you can have prepared prior to starting your work with the grants team. And as I alluded to earlier, communication is key. Start communicating your needs to stakeholders now and keep those lines of communications open throughout the length of the process.

Are you or your organization looking to implement or expand a telehealth program but struggling with technology funding? The Polycom Grant Assistance Program experts can help. Request a Grant Assessment now.