CLINTWOOD, VA – DECEMBER 21, 2023 –  Two grants totaling $171,000 were closed recently by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) with the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to provide funding to be used to finance the provision of Starlink low earth orbit space-based broadband service, to further expand education and telehealth access in Dickenson County.

Up to $150,000 is available for the service expansions to households using telemedicine services in the county which will include two-year subscriptions for each household served. The IDA, working with the St. Mary’s Health Wagon, has identified an estimated 50 households, which include an estimated 65 telemedicine patients, as eligible for the services.

The second grant, which is for up to $21,000, will be used to finance the provision of Starlink services to mobile telehealth units operated in Dickenson County by the Cumberland Plateau Health District. Included is a two-year subscription for each mobile unit.

“VCEDA was appropriated a total of $1.5 million over three years in the Virginia state budget for FY2022, FY2023 and FY2024 for initiatives specifically intended to expand education and telehealth access,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The VCEDA Board subsequently has approved several applications for funding from the program resulting in hundreds of unserved and/or underserved school children in the VCEDA region being provided with Starlink satellite Internet.

“The IDA would like to expand this to include unserved and/or underserved telemedicine healthcare patients in Dickenson County,” Belcher continued. “By providing access to those households as well as underserved households, the IDA feels that healthcare outcomes via telemedicine will afford patients medical care that they may not have otherwise received. Additionally, there will also be educational and/or telework benefits according to the IDA’s application.”

The St. Mary’s Health Wagon has provided $50,000 in match funding for the $150,000 grant.

The $21,000 grant will be used to equip mobile units operated by the Cumberland Plateau Health District (CPHD) with Starlink services. The mobile units are used by the health district within the area at various community events and festivals and to provide remote services such as WIC enrollment and follow-up services, insurance enrollment assistance, TB, covid and flu vaccines, rapid testing and when emergencies occur. 

It was also noted with the move toward electronic health records, it is vital for the mobile units to be able to access medical records, vaccine records and birth and death certificates while in the field.  The funds will be used to equip at least two CPHD mobile units with the Starlink hardware and for two-year subscriptions.  The health district has approved a $7,000 match to help fund the mobile dish units, according to the IDA’s application for funding.

“The Industrial Development Authority of Dickenson County continues to support the mission of the telehealth access fund by linking individuals who are either unserved or underserved, with the vital resource of Internet access,” said Dickenson County Economic Development Director Dana Cronkhite.  “The access, made possible in part by these VCEDA grants, continues to bridge the gap in Dickenson County and increases individuals’ and families’ abilities to have access to telehealth medical visits and remote work opportunities.” 

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.