USDA Grant, South Dakota Telecommunication Companies, and Horizon Health Care Address Rural Health Crisis

Posted on

(HOWARD, SD) - In November 2019, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced Horizon Health Care as one of five recipients in South Dakota to receive funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.

As a USDA program recipient, Horizon Health Care (Horizon) received approximately $224,000 to enhance behavioral health and acute care services to rural patients. To receive these grants, the USDA requires organizations to match the donated funds. 

The Horizon Health Foundation collaborated with South Dakota telecommunication companies to support Horizon’s proposed Emergent Medical, BehavioRal, and Acute CarE Telehealth Project (EMBRACE). Through this partnership, these companies made investments in their communities and patient care with gifts totaling over $105,000. 

The following telecommunication companies are investing in the EMBRACE Telehealth Project:    

  • Alliance Communications

  • Golden West Telecommunications

  • West River Cooperative

  • Midstate Communications

  • Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative

  • SDN Communications

“Horizon’s work in rural South Dakota impresses us,” says SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta. “They’ve been a long-time business partner with SDN and several of our member companies serving rural South Dakota. When Horizon told us how they wanted to integrate more telemedicine equipment into their care plan for rural residents, we told them that, as a business partner, we would help them achieve their goals.”

With the investment from South Dakota telecommunications companies coupled with USDA grant dollars, Horizon’s EMBRACE Telehealth Project total cost is over $300,000.

Introducing the EMBRACE Telehealth Project

By leveraging telehealth technologies and Horizon’s existing video technology infrastructure, there are two challenges EMBRACE seeks to overcome. The first challenge involves the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare. The second is to address the reduced availability of acute care services for patients. Limited healthcare workforce capacity has led to many rural, uninsured or underinsured residents to rely on local hospital emergency room departments as a source for acute care and behavioral health needs. 

Telemedicine Investment Addresses South Dakota’s Shortage of Access to Behavioral Healthcare

"Having immediate access to a behavioral health specialist is a great benefit for our patients,” says Horizon Health Care provider Melissa Davis of Aurora County Community Health Center.  “Providing support instantaneously for all patients and working to reduce the stigma surrounding behavioral health are the primary reasons why Horizon Health Care applied for grant funds. Our patients have benefitted by making weight loss goals, discussing their mental health concerns and discussing barriers to care, among other things. We are fortunate to have leading-edge technology that puts our patients’ needs first.”

Investing in Telemedicine Services for Behavioral Healthcare in South Dakota

Telemedicine involves the application of video conferencing technology to allow live, interactive video connections between healthcare providers and patients. This service decreases expenses and family stress by reducing travel time and costs. It also increases our patient’s access to a wide variety of healthcare services and specialties without having to leave the comfort and conveniences of their own communities. Thanks to the EMBRACE Telehealth Program, patients have the opportunity to take control of their mental health while maintaining the privacy of their behavioral health treatment in their local medical clinic.

Horizon Health Care telemedicine services bring specialty healthcare directly to patient’s communities. Their Sliding Fee Program reduces the cost of treatment for patients with limited or no insurance.

To learn more about Horizon Health Care behavioral health services, the Sliding Fee Program, and telemedicine services, visit

About Horizon Health Care, Inc.

For over 40 years, Horizon Health Care has been providing personalized, affordable, high-quality medical, dental and behavioral healthcare through a rural, community-based network in South Dakota. Horizon is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves the medical, dental and mental healthcare needs of South Dakotans in rural, medically underserved areas through 110,000 patient visits annually in 32 community health centers in: Aberdeen, Alcester, Bison, Bryant, De Smet, Eagle Butte, Elk Point, Faith, Fort Thompson, Howard, Huron, Isabel, La Plant, Lake Preston, Martin, McIntosh, Mission, Plankinton, Wessington Springs, White River, Woonsocket, and Yankton. For more information please visit

About Horizon Health Foundation

The Horizon Health Foundation was established in 2016 to ensure rural health care access to those in need and provide funding for Horizon Health Care Horizon Health Foundation, a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation, seeks through responsible activities to encourage and derive sustaining gift support from current and former patients and interested friends, including corporate entities. The Horizon Health Foundation Office, operating in coordination with Horizon Health Care, is the duly designated fund-raising arm for Horizon Health Care, Inc.  In the broadest sense, the purpose of the Foundation is to create an awareness of the financial needs of Horizon Health which are not provided by patient charges and to systematically implement plans by which dollar needs can be met.

For more information, please visit http://www.horizonhealthfounda... or call 605.772.4553.