Health Center COVID-19 Testing Supply Distribution Program, Funding Updates, and More! HRSA PHC Digest

April 1, 2021

Announcing the Health Center COVID-19 Testing Supply Distribution Program
To support President Biden’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness and following on the successful announcement of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mask Distribution Program, HHS and the Department of Defense (DoD) have partnered again. The Health Center COVID-19 Testing Supply Distribution Program will supply health centers and look-alikes with free rapid testing supplies, including point-of-care analyzers and test kits. This initiative again recognizes health centers as vital partners in community-based outreach efforts. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that health centers have access to supplies, materials, and real-time information needed to support COVID-19 testing.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will send a separate communication to health center and look-alike project directors and provide instruction on ordering needed supplies to provide rapid testing throughout the coming months. Health centers are encouraged to respond to the request for information projecting their testing needs. HRSA will work within provided resources to meet the demand across the program.

Over the next few days, HHS expects to add a new category to our COVID-19 FAQs webpage with FAQs about this program.

What’s New?

Fiscal Year 2022 Project/Designation Period Extensions
As you heard during last week’s Today with Macrae, HRSA will extend the project/designation periods of health centers in a 2- or 3-year project/designation period that ends in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Health centers receiving this extension will complete an FY 2022 Budget Period Progress Report/Annual Certification instead of a Service Area Competition/Renewal of Designation (SAC/RD) application.

Your health center will soon receive an extension if:

  • Your project/designation period ends between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022, AND
  • You did not receive an extension last year, AND
  • You are not currently in a 1-year project/designation period.

For questions about extensions and FY 2022 required applications/submissions, contact the SAC or RD TA Teams via the BPHC Contact Form.

 

Office of Minority Health Encourages Everyone to Be #VaccineReady this National Minority Health Month 2021

April 5, 2021

April is National Minority Health Month, and this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) is focusing on the impacts COVID-19 is having on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities and underscoring the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain vulnerable populations, such as non-Hispanic African Americans, individuals living in nonmetropolitan areas, and adults with lower levels of education, income or who do not have health insurance, have a higher likelihood of forgoing getting vaccinated.

The theme for National Minority Health Month is #VaccineReady. The goal of this effort is to help communities at higher risk of COVID-19 to:

  • Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines and share accurate vaccine information
  • Encourage participation in clinical trials related to COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics
  • Get vaccinated when the time comes
  • Practice COVID-19 safety measures

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19 and the CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible and vaccines are available.

Here are some ways you can help promote the observance:

  • Spread the word by accessing and sharing the resources in the National Minority Health Month Toolkit, which has resources, sample social media messages, and downloadable graphics.
  • Join the conversation by using the hashtag #VaccineReady and sharing “I am #VaccineReady because…” with your community. Start a dialogue with your network on the importance of being #VaccineReady to continue protecting themselves and others by practicing safe behaviors to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Submit your virtual community events and activities to the Office of Minority Health Events Calendar. Then use the hashtags #VaccineReady and #NMHM2021 to share your events, activities and photos on social media to show what you are doing to prepare your community to be vaccine ready.
  • Sign up for email updates from OMH and about National Minority Health Month or follow OMH on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Upload the National Minority Health Month banner to your homepage carousel
  • Dedicate a blog post to National Minority Health Month on how you are helping your community be #VaccineReady

Expanding Vaccine Access

April 5, 2021

On April 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced additional measures to encourage vaccinations and increase vaccine confidence as part of the next phase of its COVID-19 public education campaign. The Administration is launching the COVID-19 Community Corps – a nationwide, grassroots network of local voices people know and trust to encourage Americans to get vaccinated. As part of the launch of the Community Corps, Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy met with founding members on April 1, 2021, as she begins championing the next phase of the public education campaign from the White House.

The Community Corps will be comprised of trusted voices in communities across the country, and the Administration will regularly share updated public health information and resources for them to use with their communities to help get friends, family, and followers vaccinated.

Read the release.

Join the HHS COVID-19 Community Corps

BPHC Bulletin: American Rescue Plan Act Funding Awarded to Health Centers

HRSA awarded more than $6 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding to 1,376 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded health centers nationwide. Health centers will be able to use the funds to support and expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver needed preventive and primary health care services to those at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.

Following the fiscal year 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (H8F) Funding for Health Centers award release, health centers will have 60 days to submit information about planned activities and costs to be supported by the funding. Award recipients should add their H8F grants to their HRSA Electronic Handbooks (EHBs) portfolio to view and complete the submission in EHBs.

Visit the H8F technical assistance page for the award submission guidance, information about upcoming question and answer sessions for recipients, and more.

Join the first of two question and answer sessions for award recipients:

Thursday, April 8
1:00 PM -2:00 PM ET
Join the day of the session
If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864
When prompted, enter meeting/webinar ID: 160 299 2757

Read the White House fact sheet about this historic investment.

COVID-19 Vaccine Resources: What Partners Need to Know Now

As COVID-19 vaccines continue rolling out across the country, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers and keeping you updated on the latest COVID-19 resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and CMS.

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has up-to-date resources and materials to help you share important and relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccine with the people that you serve. You can find these and more resources on the COVID-19 Partner Resources Page and the HHS COVID Education Campaign page. CMS looks forward to partnering with you to promote vaccine safety and encourage beneficiaries to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity. For more information, visit the CMS COVID-19 Policies and Guidance page.

Know What Telehealth Resources are Available

CMS updated policy changes effective January 1, 2021, which included adding services to the Medicare telehealth list during the public health emergency during for the pandemic. See the fact sheet and the list of services payable under the Medicare PFS, which includes office visits, psychotherapy, consultations and other medical or health services, for more information. Providers may also find the CMS COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Toolkit helpful for coverage on administering the vaccine.

Medicaid covers some telehealth services, but coverage differs from state to state. CMS developed a Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth toolkit to help states accelerate adoption of broader telehealth coverage policies in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) during the COVID-19 emergency.

In response to the increased use and expanded coverage of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, From Coverage to Care (C2C) released two new resources to support providers and patients in making the most of virtual care:

Telehealth for Providers: What You Need to Know Providers can learn how and when to use telehealth. Topics include how to set up telehealth services, how to conduct a successful visit, and how to keep up to date on telehealth payment (particularly for Medicare and Medicaid).

Telehealth: What to Know for Your Family – Patients can find out the types of care they can receive through telehealth, how to prepare for an appointment, what to expect during a visit, and more. This resource is also available in Spanish.

Providers and partners can download graphics to post on their social media channels and help spread the word about these new resources. All of these resources can be downloaded at go.cms.gov/c2ctelehealth

For more information, please contact us at: Partnership@cms.hhs.gov. 

Speaking of Vaccinations: An interactive Peer Learning Event

March 30, 2021
11:30 AM to 12 PM CST
Register Here to Participate Live or Access a Recording of the Event!

Have you ever wondered about the effectiveness or efficiency of your COVID-19 vaccination and management efforts? Are you curious about what other organizations, like yours, are doing to ensure their staff and patients are getting vaccinated? Or have you wondered about ways to help educate people who are reluctant to get vaccinated or want to learn more?

Then join the Health Quality Innovation Network (HQIN) and our community partners for a short 30-minute conversation with a Community Health Center in Virginia. Participants will have an opportunity to share successes, barriers, ideas, ask questions and connect with their HQIN Physician Practice peers.

This an opportunity to learn from each other and help HQIN tailor future vaccination learning events for you. Register now to participate live in this important event on March 30, 2021, or watch a recording at your convenience after the event.

BPHC Bulletin: American Rescue Plan Act Funding to Health Centers Announced

Today, the White House announced plans for the Department of Health and Human Services, through Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to invest more than $6 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act into HRSA-funded health centers nationwide to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver preventive and primary health care services to people at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units. HRSA will provide funding starting in April to nearly 1,400 health centers.

Health centers will have 60 days following the upcoming fiscal year 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (H8F) Funding for Health Centers award release to submit information about planned activities and costs to be supported by the funding. Visit the H8F technical assistance page for the award submission guidance, information about upcoming question and answer sessions for recipients, and more.

For detailed information on how this funding is being distributed to health centers, including an interactive map of health centers that will receive funding, please visit the H8F awards page.

Join the first of two question and answer sessions for award recipients.

April 8, 2021
1:00-2:00 PM ET
Join the day of the session
If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864.
When prompted, enter meeting/webinar ID: 160 299 2757.

Coverage to Care: Telehealth Resources

In response to the increased use and expanded coverage of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, From Coverage to Care (C2C) released two new resources to support providers and patients in making the most of virtual care:

  • Telehealth for Providers: What You Need to Know – Providers can learn how and when to use telehealth. Topics include how to set up telehealth services, how to conduct a successful visit, and how to keep up to date on telehealth payment (particularly for Medicare and Medicaid).
  • Telehealth: What to Know for Your Family – Patients can find out the types of care they can receive through telehealth, how to prepare for an appointment, what to expect during a visit, and more. This resource is also available in Spanish.

Providers and partners can download graphics to post on their social media channels and help spread the word about these new resources. All of these resources can be downloaded at go.cms.gov/c2ctelehealth

Expanding the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program

HRSA has\updated the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program webpage to reflect the expansion of the program to an additional 700 health centers. These health centers will have the opportunity to join the program over the next six weeks.

A list of health centers currently enrolled or invited to participate in the program is available on the HRSA website.

Join Jim for more information about funding, the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program, COVID-19 progress reporting, and more.

Tuesday, March 23
2:00-3:00 PM ET
Join the day of the session

If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864.
When prompted, enter meeting/webinar ID: 160 886 4136.

National Poison Prevention Week: March 21-27
Next week is National Poison Prevention Week. HRSA’s Poison Control Program encourages everyone to learn more about the dangers of unintentional poisonings and how to take the appropriate preventive measures. When in doubt, check it out! Call Poison Help at 800-222-1222 or visit HRSA’s Poison Help website

New Rural FQHC ResoNew Rural FQHC Resourcesurces

Capital Link has just released three new resources that focus specifically on Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that serve rural communities.

Located in all 50 states and territories, rural FQHCs are the healthcare safety net in many parts of the rural US. They provide comprehensive primary care and other critical health services including dental, prenatal care, and mental and behavioral health to rural residents, including immigrants and communities of color. Rural FQHCs also often serve as major employers in their communities.

Financial Impact of COVID-19 on Rural FQHCs
A new report from Capital Link illustrates how the pandemic has financially impacted health centers that serve rural communities. Results show that the nation’s more than 608 rural FQHCs have experienced a 25% decline in patient visits between April and December 2020, as patients complied with stay-at-home orders. After taking into account federal relief funding, rural FQHCs experienced net losses of $1.1 billion. Without additional support to cover the identified shortfall through June 2021, many health centers sites will remain closed, 7,121 staff may be laid off or furloughed, and 35% of FQHCs may drain cash reserves to dangerous levels. VIEW REPORT

FQHC Roles and Opportunities Related to Rural Hospital Distress and Closure
This publication provides a high-level examination of the lived experiences of FQHCs that serve rural communities, particularly in the context of rural hospital financial distress and closure. Utilizing a recently conducted national assessment of rural FQHCs, it seeks to document health centers’ experiences with hospital distress and closure over the past five years and to evaluate the extent to which these centers have and can play an instrumental role in preserving access to care under these difficult circumstances. VIEW PUBLICATION 

Rural FQHCs Financial and Operational Performance Analysis 2016-2019
This report provides an aggregate financial and operational profile of rural FQHCs. It offers a framework for identifying the financial strengths, challenges, and benchmarks that support opportunities for rural FQHC performance improvement through an examination of multi-year trends and median results. The report also provides comparisons between rural, urban, and national performance, as well as recommended benchmarks, where available. VIEW ANALYSIS