U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)—whom NASW and the Virginia Chapter endorsed in the 2020 election--has announced a new $100,000 federal grant that will go toward strengthen telehealth services for rural communities across Virginia.

“For years, rural Central Virginians have been facing healthcare challenges like hospital and clinic closures, long wait times, and a shrinking number of doctors and specialists,” she wrote in her recent legislative update. “During COVID-19, the barriers to accessing affordable healthcare have become even higher. Pandemic or no pandemic, living in a rural zip code should never condemn an American to going without the treatment they need. This federal investment will help preserve the lifeline of telehealth for more of our rural neighbors.”

The award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be disbursed through HHS’s Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant Program and will go to support the work of the nonprofit Virginia Rural Health Association.

“As the largest provider of behavior health professionals, we are excited to work with Rep. Spanberger to further advance and strengthen telehealth in Virginia,” says NASW Virginia Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE.

Spanberger is a strong advocate for telehealth. In July 2020, for example, she helped introduce a bipartisan bill to require HHS to track the impact of expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would mandate a study to understand the impact that telehealth has had on key metrics like hospital readmission rates, so lawmakers and HHS officials can efficiently maximize the impact of future investments to help more Americans.

In April, Spanberger cosponsored the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, a bipartisan bill that sought to cut red tape to allow Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of telehealth services.