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USDA stops in Adrian

Sterling Drug pharmacist Bryan Hagen (right) explains new telepharmacy procedures to (from left) Rep. Tim Walz staff member Matthew Wohlman, USDA Rural Development director Colleen Landkammer and Sen. Al Franken representative Nate Arch during a presentation of a rual business enterprise grant Tuesday afternoon in Adrian.

ADRIAN -- Colleen Landkammer, state director of USDA Rural Development, stopped in Adrian Tuesday afternoon to highlight the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to establish a telepharmacy in the community.

The City of Adrian received a $99,999 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to establish a revolving loan fund for local business creation, expansion and job development. The first revolving loan was awarded to Sterling Drug for the creation of the telepharmacy. The business opened in June 2009.

In 2008, when the community lost its only pharmacy, Mayor John Faber recalled thinking at the time that it was going to mean the collapse of medical services in Adrian.

"A lot of people depend on our pharmacy," he said. "We have a nursing home, now we have an assisted living facility and we have a clinic. It all kind of ties together, and without the pharmacy there, we start losing people."

Faber thanked Sterling Drug pharmacist Bryan Hagen for "taking a chance" and pursuing the telepharmacy project.

"We're like all of the small towns -- we look for businesses, but it's hard," said Faber. "We have to offer something to keep our houses filled, and I think having the pharmacy here is a big step in that direction."

Hagen said the telepharmacy project has worked well thus far.

"We understand the importance of healthcare access in rural Minnesota," he said, adding that the telepharmacy is "just what we need" to keep service in small, rural communities. Since the Sterling Drug Telepharmacy debuted, Hagen said he has received calls from other communities interested in the concept, from Fulda to Winnebago.

"Most of the hometown pharmacists are getting to the age of retirement and not finding anyone to take over," he said. Through a computer screen, dedicated communication lines and a pharmacy technician, Sterling Drug can continue to meet the pharmaceutical needs of a community.

"When you think of technology and telemedicine, it makes all the difference in rural communities," said Landkammer, who was appointed USDA Rural Development state director by President Obama in July 2009. "It's all about making livable, viable, sustainable communities across Minnesota and that's what we're passionate about."

Landkammer commended the community for its Maine Avenue building that encompasses City Hall, the Post Office, economic development office and the telepharmacy. The building was constructed with assistance from Rural Development's Community Facilities program.

"You're to be commended -- you've done great work here," she said. "We're really lucky that we can invest and work with you."

Landkammer commended both Rep. Tim Walz and Sen. Al Franken for taking the "tough vote" and supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

"It wasn't real popular, but it's made a huge difference in rural Minnesota," she added.

While neither Walz nor Franken attended Tuesday's program, they were represented by aides in their offices.

Matt Wohlman, outreach director for Walz, said Tuesday, "I think this is a great example of an excellent public-private partnership that creates jobs and opportunities in rural Minnesota."

Nate Arch, from Franken's office, said Franken travelled throughout Minnesota during the last recess and saw first-hand the examples of how stimulus funds have been used to help communities grow during the current economic downturn.

"This is an example of how we build for the future," Arch said.

In addition to touring the telepharmacy on Tuesday, Landkammer presented Adrian City Administrator Bruce Heitkamp and Mayor Faber with a plaque signifying their selection as a Rural Business Enterprise Grant recipient.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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