Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

November 16, 2017

What’s New

Mapping Opioid Overdose in Real Time.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) developed a smart phone application that can be used to track drug overdose deaths in real time.  Since its creation over a year ago, more than 250 law enforcement, first responders and public health agencies in 27 states have used the tool to record overdose incidents on the scene and transmit information to a central database tracking location and time. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that rates of drug overdose deaths are higher in rural areas than urban.  Beginning at 1:30 pm ET on Thursday, federal partners will join our office in a panel discussion on the opioid epidemic as part of National Rural Health Day activities.

Funding Opportunities

Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program – December 6.  Up to 25 rural public and nonprofit entities forming a consortium of three or more organizations will be awarded total funding of $5 million/year to expand health care services into underserved areas.   This unique program administered by FORHP allows communities to determine their most pressing health need and the best approach for addressing them. Applicants may apply for the traditional Outreach Program track addressing a health need specific to their community, or they may apply to a newly created track,  the Health Improvement Special Project (HISP) focusing on cardiovascular disease risk. HISP applicants will be required to meet certain requisites as outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity and, if awarded, will utilize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Heart Age Calculator to assess cardiovascular disease risk and track the same subset of individuals in their community throughout the 3-year project period. You can learn more about the work of our Outreach Program grantees on the Rural Health Information Hub, which includes videos of current and past work.  For more information, please contact Meriam Mikre at

Rural Health  Research

New: Rural Health Research Recaps.  This month, the FORHP-funded Rural Health Research Gateway began a new series of short briefs on pressing rural health issues.  The first recap summarizes mental and behavioral health in rural areas and includes a look at the prevalence of mental illness and adverse childhood experiences, and the number of health care providers in rural areas.  Write to for more information and sign up to receive alerts.

Policy Updates

Comments Requested: Physician Payment Model Proposals – November 20.  The Physician Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Group (PTAC) has posted four new proposals from provider groups with new ways that Medicare could pay physicians.  The proposals cover a range of topics: wound care in private outpatient clinics, delivering acute care in the home, improving transitions from ERs, and bundling payments for headache care, and each addresses how these approaches could benefit Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas.

CMS Announces Updates to Medicaid ProgramCMS announced new policies to give states more freedom to design innovative Medicaid programs and remove impediments to improving the program, which serves one in four non-elderly rural residents.  Specifically, CMS has improved the application process for 1115 demonstration waivers to reduce burden, increase efficiency, and promote transparency.  It has also streamlined and simplified the approval processes for state plan amendments (SPAs) and 1915 waivers.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Federal Activities for National Rural Health Day – Thursday, November 16 from 9:30 am – 3:00 pm ET.  On Thursday, November 16th the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will join the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) to celebrate National Rural Health Day. Staff and experts from across HHS will gather to showcase FORHP’s collaboration with federal partners and demonstrate the telehealth innovation called Project ECHO that’s being used by several federal programs to build health care capacity.  Viewers and attendees can learn more about resources that can be found at State Offices of Rural Health. Beginning at 1:30 pm ET, we’ll be joined by partners in our building, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for a panel discussion on federal efforts to address the opioid epidemic.  Each session will include time for questions and answers. Visit our website to learn more about how HRSA programs serve rural communities, get more details on the full agenda for National Rural Health Day and send questions to

Protecting Agricultural Producers – Thursday, November 16 at 1:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafe Network hosts this 30-minute webinar to discuss their Total Farmer Health Initiative as well as other health and safety resources for rural health professionals and agricultural communities.

Antibiotic Stewardship for CAHs – Thursday, November 16 at 2:00 pm ET. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with FORHP, the American Hospital Association, and The Pew Charitable Trusts on a guide to help small and rural hospitals address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. It’s a task that’s critical to improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.  This webinar for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) hosted by the CDC  will walk through the materials and resources developed for antibiotic stewardship that takes into account the challenges of limited staffing and resources for smaller facilities.

Respiratory Health of Agricultural Workers – Thursday, November 16 at 3:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafe Network will host this free one-hour webinar that will help rural health clinicians learn about respiratory hazards and symptoms associated with agricultural activities.

Rural America at a Glance – Friday, November 17 at 1:00 pm ET.  The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture will host a one-hour webinar highlighting their most recent findings on social and economic conditions in rural areas, focusing on population change, employment, income and poverty, as well as trends in access to broadband service.

Approaching Deadlines

Comments Requested: Physician Payment Model Proposals – November 20
Comments Requested: Improving Care for Medicare Beneficiaries – November 20
Survey: Federal Strategy for Childhood Lead Exposure – November 24
Comments Requested: HHS Partnerships with Faith Communities – November 24
Comments Requested: 2019 Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) Changes – November 27
Comments Requested: PACE Quality Measures – November 30
Support for Rural Financial Institutions – November 30
Revitalize Rural Rental Housing – December 1
MIPS Virtual Group Election – December 1
USDA Community Food Projects – December 4
Recertify in 340B Drug Pricing Program – December 6
Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program – December 6
Enrollment for 2018 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans – December 7
Public Health Crisis Response – December 11
Improve Tribal Road Safety – December 11
Rural Utilities Service Assistance for Communities – December 11
Deadline for Health Insurance Enrollment – December 15
Assessment for Preventing Medical Errors – December 15
Improving Rural Community Airports – December 15
New Geographic Service Areas for HIV Intervention – January 2
Nominations: HHS Advisory Committee on Minority Health – January 3
Researching Health Behavior for Young People – January 7
Treasury Loans for Rural Economic Development – January 9
Preventing Intimate Partner Violence – January 16
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