Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

March 2, 2017

What’s New

Healthy People 2020:  Progress Report.  The 10-year initiative for tracking and reporting on the nation’s health goals gets a report on progress made toward four overarching goals:  high-quality/longer life, elimination of health disparities, healthy social and physical environments, and healthy behaviors across all life stages.  Sleep habits and social determinants of health were among new areas of study added to the list of topics and objectives for this decade.  Data tables on page 16 of the midcourse overview show that populations in metropolitan areas meet 64% of health disparity objectives set by the HP2020 plan, while in rural areas that rate is 34%.  This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will focus on HP2020 health indicators for rural areas in a special series of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.

Funding Opportunities

Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals – April 25.  Community organizations, local governments and Federally recognized  American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes are among groups eligible to apply for funds to support coordination of behavioral health and housing services.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will make approximately 24 awards of up to $400,000 each for efforts that connect patients with substance abuse disorders with community systems that provide permanent housing and supportive services.

Policy Updates

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Comment: Proposed Payment Models for Pediatric Care – March 28.  CMS is seeking feedback on proposed changes aimed at reducing cost while improving the quality of care for children and youth enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  In particular, “concepts are being explored that encourage pediatric providers to collaborate with health-related social service providers (e.g., early childhood development programs, child welfare services, and home and community-based service providers) at the state and local levels and share accountability for health outcomes.”  CMS would like input from a broad community of pediatric stakeholders to learn more about opportunities and impediments to integrated service models and the supports that may be needed.  Rural providers and community organizations may be able to provide insight into the challenges and potential benefits to rural areas.  To be assured consideration, please submit comments to by 11:59 p.m. EDT March 28, 2017.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Webinar Recording: Obstetric Care Quality and Access for Rural U.S. Women. Katy Kozhimannil, PhD, MPA, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Director of Research at the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center presented findings from recent studies on the quality of obstetric care in rural hospitals, the workforce providing obstetric care in rural areas, and the predictors of non-local childbirth for rural women. The focus of this presentation was on understanding whether rural pregnant women have access to the care they need, and whether rural hospitals have the capacity to meet the needs of rural women and families.

Reducing Heart Disease Through Integrated Care – Tuesday, February 28th, 1:00 pm ET.  Participants will learn behavioral-primary health integration protocols from Million Hearts, the national initiative to reduce deaths from heart-related illnesses.  SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grantees have shown how integrating primary care helps reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower the risk of hypertension for people with mental illnesses. Join this webinar to learn what’s next for Million Hearts and how health care providers, including integrated primary and behavioral health care providers, have used Million Hearts’ blood pressure protocols to improve the health of the people they serve.

Zika 101 – Tuesday, February 28th, 1:00 pm ET. Zika virus primarily spreads through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and outdoor workers may be at higher risk for contracting the virus. Many who are infected with Zika will not have symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes) or will only have mild symptoms. Participants in this webinar will learn to recognize the symptoms of Zika, understand testing guidance and methods for protection.

CDC on Rural Mortality and Preventable Deaths – Wednesday, March 1st, 11:00 am ET.  Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the first in its series of rural-focused Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, with research and recommendations on preventing the five leading causes of death in rural areas.  This webinar will feature the lead authors of that report and its companion commentary to discuss the research findings and recommendations.  Featured speakers will include officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services. Participants will also hear from a long-standing FORHP grantee, Dr. Timothy McKnight, who will share the story of the Fit for Life program, implemented in rural Ohio over a decade ago.  Fit for Life has been successful in improving health outcomes by addressing a number of the risk factors contributing to the leading causes of death as cited by CDC. A recording of the event will be available at

Scope of Practice State Profiles.  This interactive map from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) provides state policymakers with information about licensing and scope of practice issues related to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Demonstrating Critical Access Hospital Value: A Guide to Potential Partnerships (pdf download) – Using a market based approach, this guide from Rural Health Value assists CAH leadership in identifying ways to demonstrate the value they bring to potential partners including networks, affiliations, payers, community-based organizations, or accountable care organizations.

Approaching Deadlines

AHRQ Seeks Information From Healthcare Delivery Orgs – February 28
Comment: Changes to Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan – March 3
Direct Decision Support (DDM) Model Letters of Intent – March 5
Shared Decision Support (SDM) Model Letters of Intent – March 5

Black Lung Clinics Program (BLCP) – March 6
Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program –  March 6
Black Lung Center of Excellence (BLCE) – March 6
Comment: Changes for the 2018 Marketplace — March 7
Request for MedPAC Nominations – March 10
Physician Quality Reporting Deadline Extended – March 13
New Deadline for Hospital Data Submission – March 13

Broadband Service for Rural Communities – March 13
EHR Attestation Deadline Extended – March 13

Area Health Education Centers – March 29
USDA Invests in Rural Business DevelopmentMarch 31
Community Facilities Program – Ongoing