Grant will help improve health in state’s rural areas

Published 2:22 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022


The Kentucky Office of Rural Health has been awarded a three-year, nearly $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to improve access to health care services for veterans living in rural Kentucky and to improve the coordination of care for veteran patients. The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, in Hazard, serves as the federally-designed Kentucky Office of Rural Health.

The $899,997 grant, provided through the Rural Veterans Health Access Program, will fund a range of efforts: conducting a needs assessment focused on the resources, programs, best practices and organizations currently available to assist the Commonwealth’s rural veterans; establishing and regularly calling together a stakeholder advisory group that will be tasked with guiding projects being developed and carried out; and hosting training sessions and Veteran Community Health Days events for veterans, families of veterans, health care organizations and other community members.

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KORH will also partner with community stakeholders to support projects at the local level that address veteran access to care.

KORH was one of just three organizations nationwide to receive funding.

“This is a project and a population that we’ve been interested in working with for some time. We’re nothing short of excited,” said KORH Director Ernie Scott. “We have a veteran on our staff, a number of veterans working at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health and most of us here have a direct connection to at least one veteran in our own families. Our veterans are near and dear to our heart. It’s a population with a significant presence in rural Kentucky — more than 40% of Kentucky’s veterans live in rural communities — and it’s our honor to work with them, to support them and to seek out ways we can have a positive impact on their health and their ability to navigate the health care system.”

Scott said the project also provides an opportunity for the office to develop a closer working relationship with the Veterans Health Administration, the country’s largest integrated health system, and to encourage innovative community partnerships between the VHA’s clinics and medical centers and health care professionals across the Commonwealth.

“There are plenty of efforts taking place here in the Commonwealth to meet the needs of our rural veterans. And we’re not here to duplicate those efforts,” Scott said. “Instead, what we hope to do is call attention to any gaps that might exist in the care being provided to veterans and work with partners to develop solutions. We also want to showcase the good that’s being done and that can be replicated in other communities. This project is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Much of the office’s work with veterans will be focused in the 27 counties where Kentucky’s 28 critical access hospitals — rural facilities with 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds — operate: Allen, Breckinridge, Caldwell, Carroll, Casey, Cumberland, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Grant, Green, Hart, Knox, Leslie, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Marshall, Mercer, Morgan, Ohio, Russell, Simpson, Trigg, Union, Wayne and Woodford.

The Kentucky Office of Rural Health, established in 1991, is a federal-state partnership authorized by federal legislation. The UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health, located in Hazard, serves as the federally-designated Kentucky Office of Rural Health. KORH works directly with clinicians, clinic and hospital administrators, policymakers and other stakeholders to improve the accessibility of health care services for the Commonwealth’s rural and underserved residents. The office connects communities and health care organizations to local, state and federal resources while working toward long-term solutions to financial, quality improvement and workforce challenges.