Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

June 6, 2017

What’s New

New Medicare Cards. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have launched a fraud prevention initiative removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.  The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number currently used.   Beneficiaries will begin receiving the new cards in April 2018.  More information about the Social Security Number Removal Initiative can be found on the CMS website.  In April, the SSNRI was the topic of a webinar in the Rural Health Clinical Technical Assistance Series.

COPD National Action Plan.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with a higher prevalence of the disease in rural communities.  At the end of May, the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with representatives from across the COPD community, released the first ever COPD National Action Plan providing a unified framework for reducing the burden of the disease.  To get involved, read more about the plan’s goals and download resources for outreach on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website.

SAHIE Data.  The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the 2015 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) program report, describing trends in health insurance status by state and county.  The report includes an interactive mapping tool with data on health insurance coverage by five income-to-poverty ratio categories, income, age, race, ethnicity and sex, which could be useful in grant writing.

Shortage Designation Project.  The Health Resources and Services Administration provides this update on the effort to modernize the process for designating Health Professional Shortage Areas, also known as HPSAs. The designation is one of several used by federal programs to determine need of primary, mental and dental health providers and services in underserved areas, particularly rural communities.  The project that began in 2013 does not involve any changes to the criteria or methodology for designating HPSAs, but one component is an update of existing geographic, population and facility information with data provided by State Primary Care Offices.

Funding Opportunities

Post-Secondary Success for Rural Vets – June 21. The Department of Education (ED) seeks applicants for the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program, which prepares, motivates, and assists low-income military veterans to build the skills necessary for successful completion of post-secondary education. There are currently 49 VUB programs nationwide ready to assist veterans. ED will provide $257,500 to new VUB programs serving at least 125 participants. Eligible applicants include high schools, colleges and universities, community-based organizations serving disadvantaged youth, and other public or private agencies. VUB may be especially effective in rural communities where 30% of U.S. veterans live facing barriers to health care as well as economic, educational, and career opportunities. Rural veterans who persist through college may also be excellent candidates to enter health care professions in their home communities.

Transitional Living Program/Maternity Group Homes – July 14.  The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will award up to $195,000 each to more than 100 organizations for projects assisting homeless youth and their dependent children.  State and local governments, Native American tribal organizations and public housing authorities are among those eligible to apply, though priority will be given to applicants with experience in providing shelter and services to run-away, homeless or street youth.  The ACF will also award up to $200,000 to 91 entities for the Basic Center Program – July 14 for homeless youth. Rural homelessness was addressed in a 2014 policy brief submitted to the Secretary of HHS by the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.

Delta Health Care Service Grant Program – July 17.  Academic health and research institutions and entities promoting economic development are eligible to apply for grants of up to $1 million to create or enhance services, job training, public education programs or expansion of facilities related to health care in the Delta region.  The grants will be administered by Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  For more information and assistance with applications on this and the following two funding opportunities, contact your state’s USDA Rural Development Office.

Community Facilities Technical Assistance Grant – July 24.  School districts, institutions of higher education and county governments are among those entities eligible to apply for 15 grants of up to $150,000 each to provide training and technical assistance for community facility needs.  The Rural Development office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes these funds available to help other rural entities gain access to and successfully run other programs for economic development.  See link for USDA’s ongoing Community Facilities Programs in the Approaching Deadlines section below.

Rural Community Development Initiative – July 25.  USDA’s Rural Development office also expects to award 25 grants, each ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 to private, nonprofit and public organizations providing financial and technical assistance for housing, facilities and economic development in rural communities.  Successful applicants will be required to provide matching funds in an amount at least equal to the RCDI grant.

Empowered Communities/Healthier Nation – July 31.  This program from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services targets rural and urban communities disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic and seeks to develop community-level strategies for prevention and increasing access to treatment and recovery services.  The strategies should include collaboration among local public health, law enforcement, substance abuse assistance providers and the medical community to provide comprehensive services.  State and local governments, Native American tribal governments, institutions of higher education and small businesses are among those eligible to apply for awards of up to $350,000.   For more information, contact Sonsiere Cobb-Souza at

Policy Updates

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Data Requested: Non-Drug Treatment for Chronic Pain – June 19.  Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPC), funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality seek relevant published and unpublished scientific studies, including those describing adverse events, to improve its review of non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment for chronic pain. EPC will report on the state of evidence for effective non-drug treatments for chronic pain, which may benefit rural communities where residents are more likely to experience chronic pain and where misuse of prescription pain-relievers has led to a growing number of overdose deaths.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Chronic Care Management for Nurses – Wednesday, June 7 at 3:00 pm ET.   This program from the CMS Office of Minority Health and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses will discuss updates to Connected Care, a new resource for clinicians and patients about the benefits of care management for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, which has a higher prevalence in rural areas.

Webinar: Transportation and Health Access – Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 pm ET.  HRSA’s Office of Regional Operations invites rural providers and community organizations to this one-hour webinar about the Veterans Transportation Program.

National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse – June 11-15.   Registration is still 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.

Mental Health Needs of Older Adults – Monday, June 12 from 12:00-1:30 pm ET.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will hold a 90-minute webinar to explore the impact of an aging population on mental health services, geriatric psychiatric clinical syndromes and opportunities for prevention and treatment in geriatric mental health.  On average, rural populations are older than in other parts of country and the CDC expects the number of Americans aged 65 year and older to double over the next 25 years.

Opioid Abuse: Successful Models for Treatment – Tuesday, June 13 from 2:00-3:30 pm ET.  In this 90-minute webinar hosted by HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW), experts will share current curriculum and resources pertaining to opioid abuse, highlight approaches and policies integrating clinical care with community-based partners, and discuss challenges and strategies for overcoming health workforce needs as it relates to the opioid epidemic. This event is part of BHW’s Workforce Grand Rounds webinar series, aiming to improve health professions training with the intention to increase the number of high-quality health professionals, particularly in rural and underserved communities.

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

Rural Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Toolkit

Developed by the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, this new toolkit provides information, strategies, and resources to help rural communities implement substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. Browse program models and examples, and learn how to implement, evaluate, and sustain a program in your community and disseminate program results.

Approaching Deadlines

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
Data Requested: Non-Drug Treatment for Chronic Pain – June 19

NIDA Funding To Expand Treatment For Opioid Abuse – June 20
Post-Secondary Success for Rural Vets – June 21
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
Rural Health Experts Wanted – July 3
Building Communities of Recovery – July 3
Transitional Living Program/Maternity Group Homes – July 14
Delta Health Care Service Grant Program – July 17
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