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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Improving telehealth access in rural Arkansas

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023   

In rural Arkansas, access to healthcare can be a distant dream - literally - as almost 60 counties in the state do not have enough providers to serve their populations. A new initiative with the Health Resources and Services Administration is working to improve access in these areas, through telehealth.

Heather Dimeris, director, Office for the Advancement of Telehealth at the Health Resources and Services Administration, said delivering care remotely online fills a crucial gap. Arkansans can visit telehealth.hhs.gov to explore their options, including behavioral and mental-health services.

"You can look at anxiety or depression screening through telehealth," she said. "You can also receive treatment for your anxiety or depression and other mental health needs, through one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy. And telehealth has also been extremely helpful in treating patients with substance-use disorders."

Dimeris noted 40% of all behavioral healthcare is now done virtually, including therapy, addiction counseling, and mental-health screening. She adds HRSA also provides telehealth services for treatment of chronic diseases, like diabetes, and information for healthcare providers.

However, the growth of telehealth spotlights another challenge for rural Arkansas - the lack of reliable, affordable internet service. Dimeris added some people can use their cell phones for telehealth services. Or they can apply for discounted internet access through two programs offered by the Federal Communications Commission.

"The Affordable Connectivity Program, as well as the Lifeline Program," she continued. "Both of these programs have eligibility requirements. But if you meet them, you really are able to access either free or reduced cost for broadband services and cell phone services."

Lower-income households can get up to $30 a month off their internet service bill, or $75 a month if they live on tribal lands, according to the FCC.


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