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UnitedHealthcare gives out $234,000 in grants to help consumers in rural areas of Kansas gain access to care

The money is going to programs to improve health through telemedicine, at home care, portable technology, transportation and drug screenings.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

UnitedHealthcare has awarded $234,000 in five grants to help improve access to healthcare in rural areas of Kansas.

The money will be used to improve telemedicine, transportation, portable technology, at home assistance and screenings for drugs, alcohol and depression.

About 30 percent of Kansans live in rural or frontier areas, with more than 80 counties established as areas with shortages of primary care health professionals, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

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[Also: CHC launches new hospital collaborative aimed at financially struggling rurals]

On Tuesday, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Kansas CEO Kevin Sparks and Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, MD, presented a $48,000 check as a Frontier Rural Health Care grant to the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas.

The grant will advance its prototype telemedicine system to a fully functional program to provide access to care for those who do not live close to a provider.

They also gave $45,000 to the Southeast Kansas Independent Living Center. The grant will be used to teach 70 people how to monitor and improve their health with portable mHealth technology adapted for people with disabilities.

[Also: Collaborative emergency medicine-primary care model could boost rural population health]

The following day, $45,000 was awarded to the Community Health Ministry, and $48,000 to the Minneola District Hospital. The grant to the Community Health Ministry will enable outreach staff to address the needs of Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee county seniors who require assistance to remain living at home.

The $48,000 to the district hospital will provide integrated behavioral health therapy services by screening patients for depression and drug and alcohol dependency, as well as inpatient services and implementing post emergency department phone calls for chronic users.

A fifth grant for $48,000 will be presented to the Reno County Health Department. The grant will fund a full-time community health worker to provide health support services such as transportation and translation and weekly educational opportunities for more than 200 people.

UnitedHealthcare established the Frontier Rural Health Care grant program earlier this year to fund organizations and programs aimed at improving health resources available for people living in rural areas of Kansas.

[Also: UnitedHealth Group's Stephen Hemsley is stepping down as CEO]

"Many Kansans who live in rural areas have to travel long distances to see a healthcare provider or they have limited access to preventive, specialty and emergency care," Lt. Gov. Colyer said.

"UnitedHealthcare's goal was to seek out innovative, compassionate, hands-on programs when selecting grant partners," Sparks said. "We are grateful for the opportunity to support the work of these organizations that are helping Kansans live healthier lives. Together, we are improving access to care across our state."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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