"We wouldn't be all that we are today if it weren't for USDA”, said Verne Hansen, Board President of the Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC). With help from Rural Development, South Dakota, FAMC leveraged $5 million in loans and loan guarantees to build a state-of-the-art 12-bed facility serving as the Critical Access Hospital for Faulkton (population 744) and the surrounding community. This new facility has yielded a 500% increase in patient revenues and improved the level of care. Due to overwhelming demand, FAMC is planning an expansion to continue meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakotans.
Recently, South Dakota’s Rural Development office teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Dakota State University, and East River Electric Cooperative to bring together providers and funders to generate concrete plans improving access to rural health care in our state. One concrete outcome was workshop on the collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative, where we focus on maximizing and utilizing the resources we currently have at our disposal to best meet the needs of today and the future. To illustrate the path to success, Faulkton Area Medical Center CEO Jay Jahnig gave a first-hand example of how USDA was able to provide the financial support that allowed FAMC to significantly increase its quality and quantity of service to the community.
I think the biggest takeaway from this workshop is that we can make great strides in improving access to health care. Be it bricks and mortar, modern imaging technology, or even telemedicine and electronic medical records technology, success is achieved with collaborative hard work on the part of communities, small businesses, health care organizations, and federal and state agencies.
Rural Development’s investments in South Dakota’s health care facilities is part of USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity which coordinates the Department’s assistance in the Nation’s most economically challenged rural areas. Through StrikeForce, USDA works with community partners to feed kids, assist farmers, secure safe homes, conserve natural resources and create jobs. Currently, USDA StrikeForce teams are collaborating with more than 500 community partners to address chronic rural poverty in over 800 counties in 21 states and Puerto Rico, including South Dakota.