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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Establishes the Rural Assistance Center (RUC)

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has established a new national resource on rural health and human servicesi nformation.

The Rural Assistance Center (RAC) is being launched through a partnership of the UND Center for Rural Health and several other top-rated rural health and human services organizations in the United States. The organizations
include the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the Welfare Information Network in Washington, D.C.

The partnership will combine significant resources and health and human services expertise to create a repository of rural information on more than 225 different federal health and human services programs and other available private assets. The information will be made available to communities, researchers, state policymakers and national organizations through a Web site and accessible information specialists.

"We are delighted to join with the University of North Dakota and its partners to create the Rural Assistance Center, which will provide a single point of entry for people across the country seeking information about health and human services in rural America," said Elizabeth M. Duke, Ph.D., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the DHHS agency that awarded the $600,000 grant to UND to establish the new
center. "The RAC is an integral part of DHHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's push to improve the delivery of health and social services in rural areas."

The RAC was established as a result of Secretary Thompson's "One Department, Serving Rural America" initiative, whose task force released a plan to improve DHHS' rural services in July. The task force report may be accessed
on the Web at

http://www.ruralhealth.hrsa.gov/initiative.htm.

"With this grant, the nation's 'information highway' for rural health and rural human services links vital resources that bring some of the best expertise to the public," said Dr. Mary Wakefield, director of the RAC at the Center for Rural Health, University of North Dakota. "This initiative creates a national resource for rural health and human services -- able to respond to questions from a variety of locations ranging from community organizations, hospital administrators, state government workers, and others seeking up-to-date rural information."

The Rural Assistance Center capitalizes on information technology by making virtually all information web accessible, according to Wakefield. People from throughout the nation will have access to information specialists
who will provide customized assistance, such as database searches on rural health and human services topics and funding resources, linking users to organizations for additional information, furnishing relevant publications, and posting a wide variety of timely information on the RAC Web site.

A quarterly newsletter on rural health and human services and an annual compendium of federal programs serving rural America will also be developed and available nationally through the Rural Assistance Center Web site.

The Rural Assistance Center can be accessed by calling 1-800-270-1898, faxing 1-800-270-1913, e-mailing information requests to or on the Web at www.raconline.org

12/16/02

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