State effort to expand rural broadband gets boost from Better Health Together

  • September 17, 2020

BHT grant supports Washington Broadband Office efforts to secure competitive federal funding for broadband projects in eastern Washington

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Broadband Office is celebrating a partnership with Spokane-based nonprofit Better Health Together (BHT) that will provide up to $207,000 to fund development of 18 broadband grant applications for projects in eastern Washington: two projects in each of Spokane, Adams, Lincoln, Stevens, Ferry, and Pend Oreille counties, and two projects each for the Spokane Tribe of Indians Reservation, Kalispel Tribe of Indians Reservation and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

“These Integrated Managed Care (IMC) funds were set aside in 2019 for telehealth strategies, but COVID expedited this work,” said Alison Poulsen, Better Health Together Executive Director. “Our behavioral health partners tell us there are many positives to telehealth appointments, however, patients lacking access to high-speed internet remains a massive barrier to delivering services. We are proud to partner with the state to support their work to expand broadband to under and unserved communities.”

“Bridging the digital divide is one of the most important tools we have to improve health and educational outcomes and support work from home and small businesses. The pandemic has further exposed the inequities and gaps in service, especially in rural communities,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “The Better Health Together partnership couldn’t have come at a better time as it will help us maximize the federal funds we can attract to our state to achieve our broadband access goal.”

“Our state’s rural broadband expansion goals are aggressive, and this partnership is an example of how we aim to see Washington communities maximize federal funding, such as grants we expect will be available soon through the US Department of Agriculture and others,” said Washington Broadband Office Director Russ Elliott. “By joining forces with organizations like BHT and their partners, we are able to provide rapid feasibility with infrastructure assessment, financial analysis and expert grant writing to advance dozens of shovel-ready projects across the state.”

BHT’s $207,000 investment will fund the creation of grant applications that are highly targeted, produced with uniform quality, and managed by expertise familiar with the technical details of broadband networks and Federal grant applications.

This work will be accomplished jointly with the Washington State Broadband Office, GEO Partners LLC, experts in network and financial modeling, and Learn Design Apply Inc. (LDAI), specialists in grant consulting and proposal writing.

Additionally, the state has worked with numerous partners, including Washington State University Extension, Washington State Library and Secretary of State, NoaNet and Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC), to set up hundreds of free public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the state.

Take the survey and speed test at www.broadband.wa.gov and find a map of free public Wi-Fi hotspots here.

About Better Health Together

Better Health Together tackles health inequities throughout eastern Washington. We believe everyone deserves a fair shot at being healthy. To make this happen, we work with more than 100 organizations across seven counties to promote practical solutions that meet the needs of the people and communities we serve. BHT was founded on the principle that when we step back and let local community lead, we find the best and most sustainable solutions to some of our most complex problems. We advocate for policies centered on accountability, accessibility, and affordability. We disrupt the status quo by facilitating conversations and partnerships that level the playing field for community health throughout our region. www.betterhealthtogether.org

Contacts

Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, Mobile/text: (360) 704-9489

Kim Brinkmann, Better Health Together, (509) 979-9295

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