Distance Learning and Telemedicine Project
Sponsored by the USDA Rural Utilities Service
The Cuyama Valley is a remote rural area with a population of
1,120. It is situated along Highway 166, over an hour and a
half drive from the nearest city in its County. The Valley is
the home of large ranches and small scale farming, has a fire
department with trained medics, and recreation district with
the main public meeting hall, a library open part time, a health
clinic open one afternoon a week for preventative medicine,
a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. The
landscape is similar to other rural California area - rolling
hills green in Spring and golden in summer, dotted by gnarled
old oak trees, with water sources scattered infrequently in
the arroyos of the hills that feed into the small Cuyama River.
Cuyama faces serious technology access problems in that the
telephone provider is unwilling to establish the more affordable
frame relay digital circuit service to the Valley as there
is not a large enough population base to make it profitable.
The only Internet access in the Valley at the time of the
RAIN DLT Projectís start is a 56k digital line into the high
school that costs nearly twice per month what a T-1 line in
an urban area ( 25 times the capacity ) would cost.
There is an outstanding need to
assist the community in developing local dial Internet access.
The Cuyama Valley is an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara
County, and therefore does not have City status - which means
no elected officials or tax-based infrastructure; it is entirely
dependent on the County for infrastructure services. Given
that Cuyama is on the eastern side of the San Rafael Mountain
Range, it is geographically extremely removed from the cities
and government centers that allocate funds for its infrastructure.
There is an outstanding need to
help the community develop a stronger voice in the democratic
Cuyama has one medical clinic facility that is open one afternoon
a week, staffed by a physicianís assistant and nurse practitioner
who must drive over three hours round trip to provide service
for the one afternoon a week. At one time the clinic was opened
five full days a week with a local physician under federal
rural clinic funding, but when that funding ended, the physician
moved out of the area. The County Health Department has reported
that if they were able to fund funding to keep the doors open,
the would see 12-16 patients a day which is sufficient demand
to warrant the additional hours, but funding is not available
in the foreseeable future.
The County Health Department is very
interested in exploring telemedicine opportunities as a solution
to the severely underserved rural health care challenge.
It is interesting to note that before
the arrival of European settlers, the area of New Cuyama was
inhabited by Native Americans who were culturally and politically
associated with the Chumash coastal tribes on the other side
of the mountains that divide Cuyama from the inland coastal
valleys and shoreline area. The area is the site of noted
Native American rock art paintings, and the early European
settlers reported on the presence of small villages along
the Cuyama River. While it would appear geographically that
the Cuyama Valley would have been inhabited by tribes related
to the Central Valley of California, this was not the case.
So, in historic, as well as prehistoric, times, the Cuyama
Valley has been tied culturally and politically to the coastal
areas of Santa Barbara County.
When the Valley was settled by Europeans in the 1800s, they
established large ranchos for cattle and horse breeding. Today
the largest ranches that remain are held by both Anglo American
and Mexican American owners, and the residents that work on
these ranchos are primarily Spanish speaking Mexican immigrants
or migrant workers. There is no industry in the area, and
there is a need to develop telecommuting and home based
business opportunities for youth and families.