News & Media  »  USDA Invests Nearly $150,000 to Increase Access to Health Care Training in Eastern Oregon

Oct 07, 2020, Erin McDuff

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is investing nearly $150,000 to increase access to health care training for rural residents in remote and frontier areas of eastern Oregon, announced State Director John Huffman today.

"With the vast geographic distances in this part of the state, it is not always feasible for rural residents to travel to attend classes," said Huffman. "This investment will give those who want to begin a career in health care the ability to access classes remotely, increasing the job opportunities available to them."

Eastern Oregon has a significant need for entry-level medical professionals due to the aging population in the area and high turnover as employees at hospitals and health clinics take on more advanced positions. Expanding education into rural areas is often challenging, however, as the number of students available to attend classes is often too small to justify the cost of providing the courses.

Baker Technical Institute

will establish a state-of-the-art distance learning system to enable students to participate in health care classes remotely at four sites across eastern Oregon using a $147,203 grant from USDA Rural Development. Additional funding in the amount of $22,075 is being provided by Baker School District 5J. The funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Baker Technical Institute's campus in Baker City will serve as the main hub for the distance learning program while Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day, Harney District Hospital in Burns, Morrow County Health District in Heppner, and Wallowa Memorial Hospital in Enterprise will serve as end-user sites, providing additional locations where students can more easily access classes without moving away from their communities and families.

The new distance learning program will provide access to a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and courses in phlebotomy, medical assistant training, emergency medicine, and medical terminology.

Nationwide, USDA is investing $72 million in grants to help 12 million rural residents across 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands gain access to health care and education opportunities.

The funding is being provided by the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density to access education and medical services. Most state and local government entities, federally-recognized Tribes, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses are eligible to apply. An application window is typically announced once per year.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety, and healthcare facilities; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. Learn more at