Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

March 29, 2018

What’s New

Health Equity Report for 2017.  This report from HRSA’s Office of Health Equity addresses disparities in three priority areas:  mental health, opioid use and childhood obesity.  It reports on trends in health equity and health disparities in the U.S., providing statistics and information on multiple program areas, including: maternal and child health, primary care, access, quality, HIV/AIDS, mental and behavioral health, chronic disease, health promotion, health workforce, rural versus urban, and geographic disparities.

Fraudulent Activity in Federal Grants Management System.  The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is supporting an active investigation by the GSA Office of Inspector General (OIG) into alleged, third party fraudulent activity in its System for Award Management (SAM), which manages federally-funded grants.  It has been confirmed that none of the HHS accounts were impacted.  However, effective immediately, all new organizations that want to register at, must follow specific procedures.   These include requiring an original, signed notarized letter identifying the authorized entity administrator for the entity associated with the DUNS number before a new entity registration will be activated.

Funding Opportunities

Highway Safety in Indian Country – May 1. Federally-recognized tribal governments are eligible to apply for an expected 100 awards for implementation of traffic safety programs and projects designed to reduce the number of traffic crashes, deaths, injuries and property damage within these populations. In mostly rural tribal communities, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of unintentional injury and death.

USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Grants – May 24.  Applications may be submitted by 1862 and 1890 Land Grant colleges and universities, as well as Tribal colleges and universities designated as 1994 Land Grant Institutions.  The Rural Health and Safety Education Program supports quality of life in rural communities across the United States by addressing the relationship between rural prosperity and rural health and safety in the context of food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.  For FY 2018, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is soliciting applications that specifically target Individual and family health hducation, including proposals which focus on the prevention and/or reduction of opioid misuse and abuse.  NIFA anticipates making 8-10 awards for up to $350,000 per award.

HCOP Funding for Health Professions Schools – May 29.  The Bureau of Health Workforce at HRSA is seeking applicants for the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP). This pipeline program focuses on getting students from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds into health professions training.  Given the higher rates of health professional shortages in rural areas, this funding can help rural communities “grow their own” projects to develop future doctors, nurses, dentists and other health clinicians. Accredited schools of public health and medicine, including dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, pharmacy, allied health and other areas, are eligible to apply for the program. Total program funding is $12.8 million for an expected 20 awards.

Rural Health  Research

Diabetes Mortality Higher in Rural Areas.  Researchers at the HRSA-funded Southwest Rural Health Research Center looked at data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project to examine hospital-based diabetes-related mortality and whether there were urban-rural differences across census regions.  They found that, on average, diabetes-related mortality was higher in rural areas, and highest in rural areas of the South and Midwest.  See our Resource of the Week section below for information on new federal programs addressing the rising rate of diabetes.

Policy Updates for Rural Health

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Comments Requested: CMS Proposal Reducing State Medicaid Reporting Burden – May 22.  This proposed rule would exempt state Medicaid programs from requirements to analyze certain data and monitor access when the vast majority of their covered lives receive services through managed care plans. CMS regulations separately provide for access requirements in managed care programs. Additionally, the proposed rule would provide flexibility to states when they make nominal rate reductions to fee-for-service payment rates.  As Medicaid is an important source of insurance in rural areas, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural advocates may be interested in whether this rule could impact their state’s reporting burden, enrollees’ access to care, or provider payment rates.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Social Determinants of Drug Overdose in Rural America – Thursday, March 29 at 2:00 pm ET.  At this webinar supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, sociologists will discuss trends in opioid mortality rates, differences in rates across different types of rural communities, and the relationships between those rates and social determinants of health.

Ask the Experts: Intersection of Tobacco and Opioids – Monday, April 2 at 2:00 pm ET.  The Association for State and Territorial Health Organizations (ASTHO) will host this 90-minute webinar to discuss how two issues challenging to rural areas – opioid prevention efforts and tobacco use control – are related and intersect.

Strategies for Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women – Tuesday, April 3 at 1:00 pm ET.  HHS Region 5 will host a one-hour webinar with experts from the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services to discuss their experiences with two promising approaches to treating pregnant women opioid use disorder and their babies.  A research letter published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association cites studies suggesting “the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome may be increasing rapidly in some rural states.”   For more information about this webinar, contact Amanda Waldrup in HRSA’s Office of Regional Operations at

AgriSafe Webinar: Youth Working in Agriculture – Wednesday, April 4 at 1:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafe Network will host this one-hour webinar with strategies to help safeguard young people in agricultural settings, such as assigning age appropriate tasks, providing good supervision, addressing hazards, and providing personal protective equipment.

Care Coordination 101 for Opioid Treatment Programs – Thursday, April 5 at 1:00 pm ET.  Join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for a new five-part webinar series about care coordination for opioid treatment programs (OTPs).  Mental health experts will discuss how OTPs can serve as hubs of expertise and integration to create seamless systems of care by working with primary, specialty medical, and mental health providers, as well as social service agencies, criminal justice, and government entities.  This webinar series is targeted to OTPs, but anyone interested in learning about care coordination for substance use disorders is welcome to attend.  Geographic isolation and lack of mental health providers and facilities are just two reasons rural areas need more programs for substance abuse.

Application Assistance for Community Connect Grants – Thursday, April 5 at 2:00 pm ET.  The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service will host webinars focused on the Community Connect Grant Program. These webinars will inform participants about the major eligibility and regulatory requirements of the program and will provide detailed guidance on how to submit a successful application. There will also be time for participants to ask the speakers specific questions about putting together an application.  A second webinar will be held on Tuesday, April 10 at 2:00 pm.

Tribal Health Webinar Series: Federal Grant Application Process – Wednesday, April 11 at 1:00 pm ET.  HRSA will host a Grants Education and Technical Assistance Webinar Series for Tribes, Tribal Organizations, Indian Health, Tribal and Urban Indian Health Programs.  The webinars will be held the second Wednesday of every month from 1:00pm to 2:30pm ET.  At this first session, experts from HRSA’s Kansas Office of Regional Operations will discuss the basics of the federal grant application process and where to find funding opportunities, grant resources and technical assistance. According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), 20 percent of the 5.2 million people who identify as American Indians/Alaska Natives live in rural areas. For more information about this webinar, contact Nancy Rios at

Virtual Job Fair for Behavioral Health – Wednesday, April 11 at 6:45 pm ET.  Clinicians in behavioral health, including nurses and physician assistants specializing in psychiatry and mental health can register for a 3.5 hour online job fair to connect with employers from all over the United States.  According to HRSA’s Data Warehouse, there are nearly 2,500 mental health professional shortage areas designated in rural counties of the country.

Resource of the Week

National Diabetes Prevention Program.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a framework for diabetes prevention efforts that brings together partners from the public and private sectors to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.  The key component is a lifestyle change program teaching participants to make lasting lifestyle changes, like eating healthier, adding physical activity into their daily routine, and improving coping skills.  Classes are available at hundreds of CDC-recognized locations across the country. On April 1, 2018, the lifestyle change program will become a covered benefit for Medicare beneficiaries who meet certain criteria. Last year, the CDC reported that rural counties have too few diabetes self-management education programs.

Approaching Deadlines

Grants for Drug-Free Communities – March 29
Tribal Health – Enhancement for Cancer Screening – March 30
MIPS Quality Data Reporting – March 31
Request for Information Regarding Patient-Reported Outcome Measures – April 1
Grants to Support Health Insurance Markets in States – April 5
Native Youth Initiative – Leadership, Empowerment, Development – April 9
Grants for Treatment and Recovery for Youth and Families – April 10
Comments Requested: USPSTF Research for Tobacco Interventions – April 11
CDC Funding for Overdose Prevention Research – Letters of Intent – April 12
Comments Requested:  Changes to Graduate Psychology Education – April 13
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program – April 23
Comments Requested: Changes to Short-Term, Limited Duration Health Insurance – April 23
Tribal-Researcher Capacity Building Grants – April 23
Grants and Loans for Renewable Energy in Rural America – April 30
Highway Safety in Indian Country – May 1
Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Scholarship – May 1
Funding to Improve Quality Payment Program Measures  – May 2
NHSC State Loan Repayment Program – May 7
USDA Community Connect Grants – May 14
CDC Funding for Opioid Overdose Prevention Research – May 15
Nominations for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – May 15
Comments Requested: CMS Proposal Reducing State Medicaid Reporting Burden – May 22
USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Grants – May 24
Grants for Family Planning – May 24
HCOP Funding for Health Professions Schools – May 29
Nominations: Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention – May 30
Save the Date: Rural Cancer Control Research Meeting – May 30-31
Funding for Patient-Involved Research – June 1
Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021
Drinking Water and Waste Disposal for Rural and Native Alaskan Villages – Ongoing
HIT Strategies for Patient-Reported Outcome Measures – Ongoing
HIT to Improve Health Care Quality and Outcomes – Ongoing
Community Facilities Program –  Ongoing
Summer Food Service Program – Ongoing