PLATTSBURGH An area consortium of hospitals, clinics, and colleges has been awarded a $7.6 million grant to improve telemedicine services in the North Country. The grant is part of an initiative by the Federal Communications Commission to significantly increase access to acute, primary and preventive health care in rural America. It was awarded to the Research Foundation of SUNY for a consortium organized by the Technical Assistance Center at SUNY Plattsburgh. The consortium of non-profit rural and urban health care providers in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, named The Adirondack - Champlain Telemedicine Information Network, or ACTION, will receive a grant in the amount of $7,648,304 to build a robust fiber optic network connecting the medical centers, the hospitals, a community health center, two community colleges and SUNY Plattsburgh. The state of the art fiber optic network, dedicated to telehealth and telemedicine, will connect all health care providers in those counties to each other and to Internet2, the next generation of the global computer network. The grant is also a shot in the arm for the CBN Connect project, which seeks to expand broadband services in the the three counties and a section of the Adirondack Park. The CBN Connect project is coordinated by TAC at SUNY Plattsburgh. "Realizing this award is due to the vision of the ACTION consortium members, who were willing to commit matching resources to assure a competitive application," said Howard Lowe, director of economic development for the TAC, which also coordinated the application process. Telehealth and telemedicine services provide patients in rural areas with access to critically needed medical specialists in a variety of practices, including cardiology, pediatrics, and radiology, in some instances without leaving their homes or communities. Intensive care doctors and nurses can monitor critically-ill patients around the clock, and video conferencing allows specialists and mental health professionals to care for patients in different rural locations, often hundreds of miles away. "This grant is great news for health care providers in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties. Funding will connect area hospitals with optic fiber and make telemedicine a reality for the North Country," said said Andy Abdallah, chair of the CBN Connect Advisory Board "The project is the first of CBN Connects plan to bring broadband services to all residents of the three counties. Our thanks go to Senators Schumer and Clinton and Representatives McHugh and Gillibrand for their support and hard work to make the application successful. We are also grateful for the assistance of New York State Senator Elizabeth O'C. Little and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward." In applying for the grant, the Research Foundation of SUNY served as the fiscal agent, in cooperation with the CVPH Medical Center, which is the designated lead eligible entity. The other ACTION members are Alice Hyde Medical Center, Adirondack Medical Center, Elizabethtown Community Hospital, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Health Center, Clinton Community College, North Country Community College, and the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. A second phase of the project is envisioned that would extend ACTION to Glens Falls Hospital, Massena Memorial Hospital, the Hudson Headwaters Health Network, Moses Ludington Hospital, Adirondack Community College, and other rural clinics. The Federal Communications Commission awarded a total of $417 million for the construction of 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth networks in 42 states and three U.S. territories under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The nationwide initiative will support the connection of more than 6,000 public and non-profit health care providers nationwide to broadband telehealth networks.