WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday investments of over $5.5 million in funding to grow the health workforce and increase access to quality health care in rural communities in Virginia.

Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement, the funding would significantly improve access to health care for the millions of families who live in rural America.

The Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program funds in Virginia will support four awardees to expand health care capacity in rural and tribal communities through health care job development, training and placement.

Through the initiative, Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap will get $887,676. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville will receive $1,545,000. The Virginia Rural Health Association in Luray will get $1,545,000 and the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance in Tappahannock will receive $1,545,000

This funding includes support for critical health workforce needs in rural areas such as dental hygienists, medical or dental assistants, community-based doulas, and other frontline health care workers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Additionally, a national technical assistance provider was awarded $500,000 to help these networks develop formal training and certification programs. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services invested over $16 billion on rural health through President Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The funds spread across the country to reach the 65 million people who live in rural areas will also focus on behavioral health.