Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

December 8, 2017

What’s New

Innovating Behavioral Health in Pediatric Care.  The SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) promotes the integration of behavioral health services in primary care provider settings.  In January 2018, CHIS will launch an Innovation Community for Building Integration in Pediatric Care Settings to increase behavioral health capacity for children. This opportunity to receive educational resources, group and individual coaching, and learn about best practices is open to rural, suburban, and urban provider organizations including: local health department clinics with a pediatric focus, HIV provider organizations, maternal and child health providers in underserved communities, school-based health centers, federally qualified health centers, and rural health clinics. Participants will either be new to integrating behavioral health services or just beginning to integrate care (e.g., hiring a behavioral health consultant and/or introducing a mental health or substance use screen to their services array). The focus of the improvement activities will be to: 1) help each organization identify their baseline readiness to integrate services, and 2) assist them in developing and operationalizing a work plan.  Applications for the 2018 cohorts are due by close of business on Friday, December 15.  For more information, contact

Emergency Medical Services for Children.  FORHP is partnering with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at HRSA for an intragency initiative to improve coordination of care for children experiencing mental health crisis in rural emergency care settings.  We are currently looking across state, federal and local programs to see what existing resources can inform this work. The result will be a toolkit that can be used by first responders and emergency care providers.  Examples of what we’re seeking include policies, trainings, procedures, surveys, simulation modules, peer-reviewed journal articles, current/ past research that can help identify gaps in care, useful information, best practices etc.  If you have anything to share, please send to Yolanda Baker,, and include “Critical Crossroads” as part of the email subject.

Funding Opportunities

Public Health Leadership Academy – January 12.  The National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (NLAPH) provides training to four-person multi-sector teams from across the country to advance their leadership skills and achieve health equity in their community. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the one-year program uses an experiential learning process that includes webinars, a multi-day retreat, coaching support, peer networking, and an applied population health project. Their approach to transforming communities into healthier environments emphasizes multi-sector leadership development.

PCORI  Engagement Awards – February 1.  The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is inviting Letters of Inquiry for its Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards program. Through the program, the institute will award grants of up to $250,000 over two years to projects that encourage the active integration of patients, caregivers, clinicians, and other healthcare stakeholders as integral members of the patient-centered outcomes research/clinical effectiveness research (PCOR/CER) enterprise. Applications may be submitted by any private or public-sector organization, including any nonprofit or for-profit organization or any unit of local, state, or federal government. LOIs must be received no later than February 1, 2018. Upon review, selected applicants will be invited to submit a complete application within forty days of receiving the invitation.

Understanding Vaccination Coverage in Rural Areas – February 13.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeks to get a better understanding of the factors that contribute to disparities in vaccination rates between rural and urban adolescents and make an effort to improve vaccination coverage in rural areas.  State, local and tribal governments, public and private colleges and universities and non-profit organizations are among those eligible to apply for funding of up to $350,000 per year for a three-year project with a special emphasis on the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Summer Food Service Program – Ongoing.  Summer presents a number of challenges for vulnerable children and families – especially in the 3.3 million rural households with food insecurity.  The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ensures that low-income children aged 18 and under continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.  Requirements and preparation for becoming a summer food site are significant, so we are re-posting the Summer Meals Toolkit to help state administrators, program operators and community partners begin their planning.  Also, see the Policy Updates section below for changes to USDA food programs for children.

Policy Updates

Questions about Rural Health Policy Updates? Write to

Comments Requested: USDA Revises Telemedicine Grant Program – December 27. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) loan and grant programs to encourage their development and advancement in rural areas with the greatest need. This final rule minimizes the burden of applying and ensures funds are awarded to projects reporting the greatest need. Among the changes finalized, USDA will make all pertinent information available on and allow broadband facilities to be an eligible purpose for DLT grant funds. Find your local Telehealth Resource Center for more information on advancing telemedicine in your community. Comments must be received before the final rule becomes effective on December 27.

Comments Requested: Rules for School Lunches – January 29.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides healthful foods to the nation’s children in programs including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program, among others. New rules effective July 1, 2018, relax requirements for these programs to allow more local control to serve nutritious and appealing meals, which may now include flavored, low-fat milk in addition to fat-free milk and grains that are less than 50% whole-grain. Children in rural communities are more likely than their urban peers to be overweight or obese but many small rural schools have fewer resources and poorer infrastructure to operate school lunch programs. Rural health care providers can help by leading efforts to improve access to affordable, healthful foods in their communities.

Medicare Part D Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool.  The Medicare Part D opioid prescribing mapping tool provides an interactive map and downloadable data of aggregate Medicare Part D opioid prescription claims for 2013-2015.  The state, county, and ZIP Code levels of data and maps permit spatial analyses to identify “hot spots” or clusters in rural and urban areas.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Making Pharmacy Services Accessible – Thursday, December 7 at 1:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafe Network will hold a one-hour webinar about clinical pharmacy services in rural communities and describe how students of health professions schools are being trained to provide health care outreach in rural areas.

Orientation for Medicare Diabetes Prevention – Wednesday, December 13 from 1:00-2:30 pm ET. For those interested in becoming suppliers for the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP), this webinar will give an overview of the program and its services, share information on how to enroll as an MDPP supplier, and enhance knowledge and understanding of requirements and resources related to MDPP services. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) Technical Assistance – Wednesday, December 13 at 2:00 pm ET.  This webinar will provide an overview of RHC best practices.  Several topics will be covered such as: using quality tracking tools and mock surveys; describing a streamlined chart review process incorporating Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner review; formatting an “evidence binder” of the documents needed during a survey and showing how to keep this updated and current; Incorporating mental health policies and procedures; discovering a staffing model that decreases call-out rates and helps with coverage; and learning how to get providers to adopt standardization, and to share improvements.  Dial-in information will be made available at the link above on the day of the session.  This webinar will also be recorded.

Webcast: Mental Illness Committee Meeting – Thursday, December 14 at 10:30 am ET.  The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC), which includes Federal and non-Federal members, will discuss advances related to serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance as well as rural-relevant topics, such as the effect of federal programs on the quality of mental and substance use disorders treatment services. The public can attend via telephone or webcast. To obtain the call-in number, submit comments, or request special accommodations, email

Understanding Racial Health Disparities in Rural America – Monday, December 18 at 2:00 pm ET.  Much of the research on rural health disparities in rural areas examines disparities between rural and urban communities, with fewer studies on disparities within rural communities.  Join researchers from the CMS Office of Minority Health and CDC Office of Minority Health and Health Equity as they provide an overview of racial and ethnic health disparities in rural communities examined in the latest report from the MMWR Rural Health Series. CMS and CDC will be joined by two grantees from FORHP’s Rural Health Outreach Program who will share how they are working to address racial and ethnic disparities in their communities. The presentation will also provide resources to help improve the quality of care provided to all individuals, reduce disparities, and achieve health equity.

Register for NOSORH Grant Writing Institute – January 3, 2018.  The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health will host a series of online learning sessions that inform grant writing for rural health funding.  The series is intended for novice grant writers who will learn how to research and draft winning proposals from a variety of agencies.  Class size is limited so register before the January 3rd deadline.

Approaching Deadlines

Enrollment for 2018 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans – December 7
Comments Requested: CMS Letter to Insurers  – December 11
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
Comments Requested: USDA Revises Telemedicine Grant Program – December 27
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
Public Health Leadership Academy – January 12
Comments Requested: Changes to Medicare Advantage/Part D Plans – January 16
Preventing Intimate Partner Violence – January 16
Comments Requested: Rules for School Lunches – January 29
Training Nurses for Primary Care – January 29
Training and Enhancement – Primary Care Physicians and PAs – January 30
PCORI  Engagement Awards – February 1
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