Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

July 26, 2017

What’s New

National Strategy for the Opioid Epidemic.  When approving a drug for use, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should go beyond determining its effectiveness and safety, and consider how disuse could impact individual and public health.  That’s the key recommendation in a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine requested by the FDA to address the epidemic.  The report’s authors concluded that “years of sustained and coordinated efforts will be required by federal, state and local governments and health-related organizations.” The latest data from the CDC reports more than 90 opioid overdose deaths per day.  Rural communities are hit particularly hard with higher prescription rates for chronic pain and illness and limited resources for response and treatment.

Feeding the Elderly. In the first of two reports authorized by the Older Americans Act, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) evaluates how nutrition services programs affect elders’ diet and social connectedness. Compared to those participating in congregate meal programs, ACL finds that elders receiving home-delivered meals are more likely to be older, underweight, and have income below the poverty line. Congregate meal programs are more likely to serve rural elders than home-delivered programs, perhaps given the challenges of transporting hot meals across long distances. The second part of the evaluation, expected in 2018, highlights longer-term health outcomes and the avoidance of institutionalization.

Funding Opportunities

Telehealth Network Grant for Substance Abuse – August 23.  Established telehealth programs and networks can apply for $250,000 per year for a three-year program to improve access to health care services, particularly for substance abuse in rural, frontier and underserved communities.  Existing telehealth networks in counties with high rates of poverty and unemployment are encouraged to apply to expand and improve training of health care providers and quality of services.  For more information, contact Carlos Mena in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and watch this space next week for details of a technical assistance webinar for applicants on August 8.

Funding for Buses and Transit Infrastructure – August 25. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will make  $226 million available for fixed bus routes operated by state or local government and Indian tribes. The Bus and Bus Infrastructure Program finances the purchase or leasing of buses and/or construction or leasing of bus-related facilities. Transportation is a vital determinant of health in rural communities, impacting a person’s ability to access appropriate health care, purchase nutritious food, and more. Tribal communities are eligible to apply but proposals for projects in all other rural areas must be submitted as part of a consolidated state proposal. Also of note, the FTA requires matching funds depending on the type of project proposed.

Addressing the Gaps in Suicide Research – November 2. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will provide up to $300,000 to colleges and universities, local governmental bodies, nonprofit agencies, and other eligible organizations to uncover the risk factors for and the burden of suicide. This effort seeks to link health care system records of suicide attempts to suicide mortality data to better understand the type, severity and timing of risk factors and predictors of suicide. Recent CDC research shows higher suicide rates in rural areas with some evidence of a widening gap compared to urban communities. Of note, the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services will also focus on the burden of rural suicide at its next meeting in September.

Policy Updates

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Survey on Aging and Disability – August 9. The National Administration for Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) has developed a survey  through its Aging and Disability Business Institute that’s designed to help health and social service organizations prepare for an aging population.  The challenge is multifaceted for rural areas, where the population 65 and older is expected to double in the next 25 years, though access to health care and social services in rural communities is limited. Participants in the survey can help N4A better understand the existing relationships between health care providers and community-based social services. The survey should take about 10 – 30 minutes and N4A will use results in case studies, publications and learning activities to improve current practice.  Contact Mary Kashak at N4A for more information.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

HHS Listening Session: Mental Health Parity – Thursday, July 27, 9:30 – 11:30 am ET.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will host a public stakeholder listening session on how it can best work to improve parity for mental health and substance use disorder coverage.  For those who cannot participate, feel free to submit comments to HHS through August 10 by emailing

Preparing Health Professionals for Rural Practice – Thursday, July 27 at 1:00 pm ET.  The non-profit Rural PREP supports health professions training for primary care practice in rural areas and will hold a one-hour webinar on an approach called microresearch to support locally-driven workforce recruitment and training.  Attendees will learn how microresearch has been used to promote sustainable improvements in rural health in Africa and how to apply for project funding here in the U.S.

President’s Commission on the Opioid Crisis – Monday, July 31 at 4:00 pm ET. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will convene a meeting that’s open to the public to review a draft of its report to the President on recommended policies and practices for combating drug addiction.  The draft will be made available on ONDCP’s website prior to the meeting, which can be watched through livestreaming at

CMS Listening Session:  Care Management Services – Tuesday, August 1st, 2:00 – 3:30 pm ET. During this call, CMS experts review proposals for Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule on requirements and payment for Care Management Services, which includes Chronic Care Management, General Behavioral Health Integration, and Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model services. Learn about the CMS Chronic Care Management Campaign and the proposed new process for using RHC and FQHC claims to assign beneficiaries to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

NHSC Virtual Job Fair – Tuesday, August 1st, 6:45 pm – 10:15 pm ET.  Virtual Job Fairs are online recruitment events connecting job-seeking primary care clinicians with health care delivery sites in rural and underserved areas.  This event will highlight vacancies for Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurses and requires only an internet connection to participate.

Save the Date and Register for 3RNet’s Annual Conference – September 12-14.  The National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNet) will hold its annual conference in Scottsdale, AZ. 3RNet members represent over 5,000 communities across the U.S. that actively recruit physicians and other health care providers to work in rural areas.  Attendees will benefit from workshops and a speaker line up sharing insight on rural recruitment challenges, resources and tools.

Training Series for Health Care Providers on Prescribing Opioids – Ongoing. The CDC has 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. For this reason, the CDC created the 2016  Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and associated training. Topics in the series include communicating with patients, treating chronic pain without opioids, and prescribing decision making.

Approaching Deadlines

Training Rural Teachers – July 28
Expanding Medication Assisted Treatment – July 31
First Responders to Opioid Overdose – July 31
Empowered Communities/Healthier Nation – July 31
Comments Requested: Interoperability Standards – July 31
Improved Nutrition Services for Elders – August 7
Support for Veteran and Minority Farmers and Ranchers – August 7
Public Health in Tribal Communities – August 7
Funding for Children Affected by Substance Abuse – August 9
Developing Future Victim Specialists for Indian Country – August 9
Comments Requested: Researching Pregnancy Screening for Hepatitis B  – August 9
Survey on Aging and Disability – August 9
Telehealth Center of Excellence – August 21
Comments Requested: Payment Changes for Medicare Clinicians – August 21
Telehealth Network Grant for Substance Abuse – August 23
Funding for Buses and Transit Infrastructure – August 25
AHRQ Seeks Rural Experts – August 26
Comments Requested: Updates to Policy for End-Stage Renal Disease – August 28
State Systems Development for Maternal and Child Health – September 5
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