NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was nearly a year ago when Governor Bill Lee signed the dotted line on his first executive order, which required each of the state’s executive departments to provide recommendations for how they can improve the lives of rural Tennesseans.

Fifteen counties in distress and 24 are at risk.

That means these communities are among the most economically challenged counties, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

So, what are the top issues those counties are facing?

“One of the most important things we need to be certain happens is that we get technology to rural counties,” Governor Lee said. “That’s why our budget this year doubled the funding for broadband expansion, but we can’t stop there. We have to continue to increase funding for that.”

The Governor also discussed healthcare and changes in the classroom.

“We are looking at models like free-standing ER’s and transferring to a regional health center,” Governor Lee said.

In addition to his cabinet meeting with local leaders at a summit this past August in Perry County, the governor has traveled around the state to speak one-on-one with the people he serves so he can address their concerns firsthand.

But, the process of bringing change into rural Tennessee is just beginning.

Many rural communities across Tennessee are struggling to move forward. News 2 investigates “Counties in crisis” with special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. Click here to read more.