Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

May 24, 2017

What’s New

Food Insecurity by County. The hunger-relief organization Feeding America has created an interactive map of county level food-insecurity rates in the United States. Food security, as defined and measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, means “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Overall, more than 42 million people, or 13.4% of the population, were considered food-insecure in the year 2015, the last year for which data are available.  The highest rate was in Mississippi, where 21.5% are food insecure. Rates of food insecurity are generally higher in rural households than urban.

Funding Opportunities

Rural Health and Safety Education – June 30.  Land-grant colleges and universities, established to focus on agricultural and mechanical science and research, are eligible to compete for grants of up to $350,000 to implement this program supporting health education in rural communities.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest a total of $2.8 million in rural health and safety education “to promote and enhance rural health, strengthen economic vitality and, in the long run, mitigate the effects of rural poverty.”  More information about the program is available on the NIFA website.

USDA Rural Telemedicine Development – July 17. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS) seeks applicants for the 2017 Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, providing up to $500,000 to support access to education, training, and health care resources for rural residents through telecommunications technologies. This year, RUS will prioritize $1.6 million for communication upgrades between ambulances, emergency transportation vehicles, and medical facilities. Applicants should be aware that DLT grants require a minimum 15% match, which cannot be from another federal source.

Suicide Prevention – July 18.  Health agencies with mental and behavioral health functions may apply for awards up to $700,000 to implement Zero Suicide in Health Systems.  In cooperative agreements with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), successful applicants will raise awareness of suicide, establish referral processes and work to improve care and outcomes for adults 25 and older who are at risk for suicide.  SAMHSA will hold a pre-application webinar on Friday, June 2 at 2:00 pm ET.  For more information, contact  Earlier this year, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified data showing higher risk and rates of suicide in rural communities.

Funding for Children Affected by Substance Abuse – August 9. Nonprofit organizations, state and local governments and Native American tribal governments are among those eligible to form regional networks and compete for 11 awards up to $600,000 from the Administration for Children and Families to improve the well-being of children affected by substance abuse.  Applicants must have in place a collaborative network within or across state lines that include varying entities of health, child welfare, law enforcement and other entities related to child and family services.  Six awards up to $600,000 will also be made for regional partnerships supporting children affected by substance abuse in American Indian/Alaska Native communities.

Rural Health  Research

Medical Barriers to Nursing Home Care for Rural ResidentsNursing homes have the authority to turn down referrals if they do not have room for a new resident or if they feel that they cannot appropriately meet an individual’s needs. Rural residents with complex medical care needs (including behavioral health problems, obesity, and dementia) may face barriers when seeking placement in a nursing home, especially as rural areas have larger populations of older adults, higher disability rates, and greater healthcare workforce shortages than urban areas. For this brief from the FORHP-supported Rural Health Research Gateway, the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center interviewed rural discharge planners across the country to identify these barriers and possible policy strategies to overcome them.

Physicians Prescribing Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder. Also from the Rural Health Research Gateway, new data show that 60% of rural counties have no physicians with a waiver required to prescribe buprenorphine-naloxone, an effective treatment for opioid use disorder.

Policy Updates

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Comment: Accelerating Broadband Health Tech Availability – May 24. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks comments to inform the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force of regulatory, policy, and infrastructure issues related to health care services enabled by broadband connectivity. Comments on the current state of broadband and health care may help the FCC to improve consumers’ access to potentially lifesaving technologies and services, particularly in underserved areas such as rural communities and tribal lands.

Call for Nominations: Mental Illness Coordinating Committee – June 2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) seeks non-Federal government nominations for individuals to serve on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC), which will report to the Secretary of HHS and Congress on advances in serious mental illness (SMI) and serious emotional disturbance (SED), research related to the prevention of, diagnosis of, intervention in, and treatment and recovery of SMI, SED, and advances in access to services and support for adults with SMI or children with SED.  HHS encourages geographic diversity on the committee, so rural providers, researchers, advocates, persons who have received mental health treatment, and parents/guardians of children with a history of SMI or SED could provide helpful input on issues before the committee.  A cover letter and a current curriculum vitae or resume should be e-mailed to by the due date.

Comments Requested: CAH Accreditation – June 18. Regulations require that The Joint Commission (TJC), a national organization accrediting Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) for participation in the Medicare program, reapply for this function every six years.  The current term expires November 21, 2017. CMS seeks comments on TJC’s requirements for accreditation, survey and monitoring procedures, and ability to provide CMS with the necessary data for validation.

Rural Health Experts Wanted – July 3.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seeks new members for the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), an independent, nonpartisan panel that identifies and recommends population health interventions scientifically proven to save lives, increase lifespans, and improve quality of life. CPSTF reports its recommendations in The Community Guide to help states, communities, and organizations select relevant, evidence-based interventions. In this round of nominations, CDC announces its strong consideration of nominees with expertise and experience in systematic review methods, economic analysis, substance abuse and violence prevention, aging, and rural health.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Safety Training on Dairy Farms Using Mobile-Learning – Thursday, May 25 at 1:00 pm ET.  AgriSafe will host this hour-long webinar with a novel approach to delivering safety training to workers in the dairy industry.

National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse – June 11-15.   Registration is now open for this annual event in Menomonie, Wisconsin that brings together federal agency representatives and rural alcohol and drug treatment professionals to conference on the latest in evidence-based practices for rural areas.

Training Series for Health Care Providers on Prescribing Opioids – Ongoing. The CDC has launched an eight-part online training series to help health care providers apply CDC’s prescribing recommendations in their clinical settings through interactive patient scenarios, videos, knowledge checks, tips, and resources. Rural practitioners report their concern about the potential for opioid abuse, but at the same time report insufficient training in prescribing opioids. This is why the CDC created the 2016  Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and associated training. The first training,  Addressing the Opioid Epidemic: Recommendations from CDC is available in archive. Topics in the series include communicating with patients, treating chronic pain without opioids, and prescribing decision making.

Resource of the Week

Integrating Community Health Workers into Complex Care Teams: Key Considerations
The Center for Health Care Strategies provides this brief examining challenges and considerations for integrating community health workers (CHWs) into complex care teams. The paper discusses key factors to an effective strategy for recruiting, training and integrating CHWs into a team of health professionals and includes a brief description of characteristics that are particularly important for CHWs in rural areas.  The Rural Health Information Hub has a wealth of information about Community Health Workers in rural settings on their website.

Approaching Deadlines

Comment: Accelerating Broadband Health Tech Availability – May 24
Improving Rural Economies – May 26
Comment: Delayed Rules For Home Health Agencies – June 2
Nominations for Mental Illness Coordinating Committee – June 2
Become an NHSC Site – June 6

Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training – June 12
Diabetes Prevention Program in Underserved Areas – June 12
Comment: Updated Hospital Rates/Reducing Regulatory Burden – June 13
Comments:  Updates to Long-Term Care Hospital Payments – June 13
Relatives As Parents Program – June 15
Comments Requested: CAH Accreditation – June 18

NIDA Funding To Expand Treatment For Opioid Abuse – June 20
Comments Requested: Hospice Payment Rates and Policy – June 26
Comments Requested: Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Payment Rates 
– June 26
Comments Requested: Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility (IRF) payment rates – June 27
Rural Health and Safety Education – June 30
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