The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $1.6 million to two institutions to fund efforts to improve health in the Delta. The Greater Delta Alliance for Health received a $752,832 grant, according to a news release announcing the grant.

Members of the alliance include the Ashley County Medical Center in Crossett, Baptist Health-Stuttgart, Bradley County Medical Center in Warren, Chicot Memorial Medical Center in Lake Village, Dallas County Medical Center in Fordyce, Delta Memorial Hospital in Dumas, DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home in DeWitt, Drew Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and McGehee Hospital in McGehee.

The Black River Technical College in Pocahontas was awarded a $919,139 grant to purchase and upgrade simulation equipment and provide clinical training.

Vernita Dore, USDA deputy under secretary of Rural Development, announced the funding at a news conference on Wednesday.

A portion of the grant money will be used to contract with UAMS and its Center for Simulation Education to educate rural hospitals about a variety of situations, including birthing problems, trauma, diabetic complications, pediatric emergencies and stroke.

“UAMS is pleased to have a long-standing relationship with the alliance,” said Tim Hill, vice chancellor of UAMS Regional Programs. “We consider this to be a strategic partnership, focusing on how UAMS can support the training, education and clinical initiatives in the Delta region of Arkansas. We’re delighted in the recent announcement that the Greater Delta Alliance for Health will be awarded this significant grant from the USDA that will help provide simulation training in that region. We congratulate the alliance’s leadership for this achievement and look forward to supporting their efforts.”

Some of the grant money will be used purchase training manikins and other simulation equipment, as well as a van to transport the equipment. The rest of the grant will pay for 30 firefighters in the Arkansas Delta to become certified emergency medical technicians.

The training to be provided by UAMS is a part of the alliance’s Arkansas Delta Health Education for Local Providers Program, or HELP.

In 2016, the HELP program expanded to include on-site simulation training for rural health and hospital teams for obstetrical emergency situations as well as to provide Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification training to hospital delivery teams, other hospital medical staff members, pre-hospital providers, inter-facility transport providers, and emergency department staff in the Arkansas Delta.

“The grant will help us to build on our earlier efforts and be of vital support to the alliance in achieving its goal of improving the health care workforce in the Arkansas Delta by providing free, on-site trauma simulation training and certification,” said Mellie Bridewell, executive director of the Greater Delta Alliance for Health.