Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

April 5, 2018

Funding Opportunities

National Health Service Corps Scholarships – May 10.  Health professions students in eligible disciplines can receive payment for tuition, fees and other educational costs as well as a living stipend in exchange for serving two years at NHSC-approved sites in medically underserved rural, urban and tribal communities.

AHRQ Research Demonstration and Dissemination Grant – May 26.  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will award grants of up to $400,000 to support health services research projects. Specific priority areas of focus are 1) accelerating Patient Centered Outcomes Research, 2) making health care safer, 3) evaluating expansions of insurance coverage, 4) improving health care affordability, efficiency and cost transparency. Priority populations for study are those in inner-city and rural areas, including frontier areas.

Grants for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Programs – June 4.  The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program helps rural communities use capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. For example, the program can link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another. USDA will host webinars on April 19th and April 25th on eligibility rules and application requirements for the DLT Grant Program. Eligible applicants include most entities that provide education or healthcare through telecommunications including: most state and local governmental entities, federally recognized tribes, non-profits, for-profit businesses, and consortia of eligible entities. Applicants are required to provide a minimum 15% match and awards can range from $50,000 to $500,000. For more information contact

Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans – Ongoing.  The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the USDA provides financing for the construction, maintenance, improvement and expansion of telephone service and broadband in rural areas.  Eligibility includes rurally-located non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, state and local governments, and Federally Recognized Tribes.

Funding for Rural Water and Waste Disposal Projects –  Ongoing.  USDA Rural Development helps very small, financially-distressed rural communities with funding for predevelopment planning costs for water and sanitation infrastructure projects.  Eligible areas are those with a population of 2,500 or less, with a median household income below the poverty line, and includes Federally Recognized Tribes.

Policy Updates

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Nominations: Advisory Council for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria – April 30.  The Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of HHS.  Currently, the Advisory Council seeks seven public voting members with expertise and experience in human biomedical, public health, and agricultural fields for surveillance, prevention and interruption of antibiotic-resistant threats.  Last year, the CDC created a guide for rural hospitals with a strategy for the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

Updates to Medicare Advantage (MA) and Prescription Drug Benefit (Part D) Programs – CMS finalized policy changes and plan payment rate increases to improve quality of care and provide more plan choices for MA and Part D enrollees.  The policy changes focus on putting “patients over paperwork” by reducing regulatory burdens, improving quality ratings for MA plans, and adding a new tool for Part D plans to combat the opioid epidemic. The rate announcement and call letter explains the 2019 plan payment rates and the regulatory flexibilities plans can use to improve access to benefits and services.  In 2017, about one-quarter of rural Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in MA, and almost 70 percent had Part D coverage.

New Evaluation Report on the CMS State Innovation Model (SIM) Initiative.  In the SIM Initiative, the CMS Innovation Center is testing the ability of states to accelerate statewide health care system transformation into value-based payment models (VPMs). This Year 4 Annual Report describes how Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont leveraged their roles to move providers into VPMs as well as how providers in rural and urban areas, health systems, consumers, payers, and state officials fared during the final implementation year (spring 2016 to spring 2017) of the initiative.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

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.

Tribal/Native Community-Based Research – Thursday, April 5 at 2:00 pm ET.  Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach that fully integrates members of that community in identifying an issue and taking steps to address it.  The HHS Office of Minority Health will host this one-hour webinar to discuss evidence-based practices for reducing disparities in Indian Country, which are mostly rural communities.

Application Assistance for Community Connect Grants – Tuesday, April 10 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.

Rural Health Clinics Technical Assistance Webinar – Tuesday, April 10 at 2:00 pm ET.  Staff from HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce will discuss and answer questions about the Shortage Designation Modernization Project and the planned national update of automatically-designated Health Professional Shortage Area (Auto-HPSA) designations. Rural Health Clinics are one of six types of facilities automatically designated as a HPSA by statute or through regulation without having to apply for a designation. The webinar information as well as past RHC TA webinars can now be found on RHI Hub at  Please bookmark this site for future reference.

State Legislative Approach to Behavioral Health – Tuesday, April 10 at 3:00 pm ET.  The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a bipartisan membership organization serving legislatures of all states, commonwealths, and territories.  They’ll host this webinar to discuss their analysis of legislation introduced in 2017 related to behavioral health and state policies to reduce disparities.  Mental healthcare needs are not met in many rural communities across the country because adequate services are not present.

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, 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 directly with employers from all over the United States seeking applicants right now.  According to HRSA’s Data Warehouse, there are nearly 2,500 mental health professional shortage areas designated in rural counties of the country.

FDA Public Meeting on Opioid Use Disorder – Tuesday, April 17 at 10:00 am ET.  Free bus transportation will be provided from locations in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia to a public meeting at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.  The FDA is interested in learning patients’ perspective on opioid use disorder and its impact on their lives.  Research in 2017 showed that the rate of overdose fatalities in rural areas has risen rapidly to a rate that’s slightly higher than urban.

Approaching Deadlines

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
Nominations: Advisory Council for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria – April 30
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
National Health Service Corps Scholarships – May 10
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
AHRQ Research Demonstration and Dissemination Grant – May 26
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
Grants for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Programs – June 4
Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021
Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans – Ongoing
Funding for Rural Water and Waste Disposal Projects –  Ongoing
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