HHS Announces National Competition to Spark Innovation that Will Improve Patient Access to Primary Care

Date: June 9, 2022

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Announces National Competition to Spark Innovation that Will Improve Patient Access to Primary Care

Today, HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced the launch of Building Bridges to Better Health: A Primary Health Care Challenge, a national competition with a total of $1 million in cash prizes to encourage innovation through technical assistance to health centers.

Competition participants will accelerate the development of low-cost, scalable solutions to help HRSA-supported community health centers improve patient access to primary care and strengthen the link between health care and social services. It is part of an ongoing effort of the Biden-Harris Administration to address social determinants of health and advance health equity. Read the press release.

The competition is open to broad public participation, including individuals, groups, health care organizations, and other entities. Phase 1 (concept design) will include initial awards totaling $300,000 for up to 30 winners. Phase 1 submissions are due Tuesday, August 2.

Visit Challenge.gov for more information, including submission requirements, eligibility, deadlines, competition rules, judging criteria, prize amounts, how to submit a proposal, and how to register for a webinar for potential participants.

CMS Reminds Hospitals Of Submission Deadlines

Date: June 8, 2022

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Reminds Hospitals Of Submission Deadlines

The following Quarter 1 2022 data should be submitted by the respective dates.

  • Wednesday, July 6 — HCAHPS patient perspectives on care survey data
    • Review and correction period is July 7-13
  • Monday, August 1 — inpatient population and sampling counts
  • Monday, August 1 — outpatient clinical data, and population and sampling counts
  • Monday, August 15 — inpatient clinical sepsis data and PC-01 data
  • Monday, August 15 — HCP COVID-19 vaccination measure data into NHSN

CDC Raises Monkeypox Travel Alert Level

Date: June 8, 2022

CDC Raises Monkeypox Travel Alert Level

On June 6, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised the monkeypox travel alert to level 2. Travelers are advised to use enhanced precautions when visiting countries with both endemic and nonendemic monkeypox outbreaks. Currently, 29 countries have reported 1,088 poxvirus infections; the U.S. has 35 cases of the virus in 15 states. 

Hospitals and clinics should contact their local public health agency or Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Bureau of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention at 573-751-6113 or 800-392-0272 (24/7) to report a patient suspected of having monkeypox. An epidemiologist will walk providers through the process for sample submission and testing. 

The following resources are available for planning and response purposes.

CMS Outlines Strategy to Strengthen Behavioral Health Care

Date: June 1, 2022

CMS Outlines Strategy to Strengthen Behavioral Health Care

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shared the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) vision to make equitable, high-quality, affordable, data-informed care for mental health and substance use challenges available to the people served by our programs, as outlined in Health Affairs

CMS recently released a Behavioral Health Strategy that demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to support the Strategy to Address Our National Mental Health Crisis and underscores the importance of access, equity, quality, and effective data integration in preventing and treating mental health conditions, substance use disorders and acute and chronic pain. 

The CMS Behavioral Health Strategy consists of five bold and interrelated goals:

  • Strengthen equity and quality in behavioral health care;
  • Improve access to substance use disorders prevention, treatment and recovery services;
  • Ensure effective pain treatment and management;
  • Improve access to and quality of mental health care and services; and
  • Utilize data to inform effective actions and measure impact on behavioral health.

The CMS Behavioral Health Strategy seeks to remove barriers to care and services, and to adopt a data-informed approach to evaluate our behavioral health programs and policies. The Strategy will strive to support a person’s whole emotional and mental well-being and promotes person-centered behavioral health care.

This is part of HHS’ ongoing efforts to support President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans—a key part of the President’s Unity Agenda that is reflected in the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Following the President’s State of the Union in March, Secretary Becerra kicked off the HHS National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health to address the mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including substance use, youth mental health, and suicide.

For additional details on the Strategy, please visit the CMS Behavioral Health Strategy page

HHS Extends American Rescue Plan Spending Deadline for States to Expand and Enhance Home- and Community-Based Services for People with Medicaid

Date: June 3, 2022

CMS NEWS: HHS Extends American Rescue Plan Spending Deadline for States to Expand and Enhance Home- and Community-Based Services for People with Medicaid

States will have an additional year to use American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen the home care workforce and expand access to services

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states that they now have an additional year — through March 31, 2025 — to use funding made available by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to enhance, expand, and strengthen home- and community-based services (HCBS) for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports. This policy update marks the latest action by the Biden-Harris Administration to strengthen the health care workforce, help people receive care in the setting of their choice, and reduce unnecessary reliance on institutional care.

“Everyone deserves the dignity to live in their own homes and communities, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting that right,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to extended funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are expanding home- and community-based services for millions of aging Americans and people with disabilities across the country. We are working hand-in-hand with states to ensure they have the time and support they need to strengthen their home care systems and workforce.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to expanding access to home- and community-based care for people with disabilities and older adults. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, these additional funds will help people with Medicaid to live and thrive in the setting of their choice,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “With this extension, we are addressing states’ concerns, giving states the time and resources to strengthen connections to care at home and in communities.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the risks of institutional and congregate settings for older Americans and people with disabilities, underscoring the urgent need to expand access to high-quality HCBS to improve outcomes for people who need long-term services and supports. HCBS allow millions of Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services in their own home or community rather than institutions or other isolated settings.

As the primary funder of HCBS nationally, Medicaid plays a critical role in supporting states’ efforts to strengthen these services for their beneficiaries. Section 9817 of the American Rescue Plan provides states with a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expenditures for HCBS — an estimated $12.7 billion. As a result of the ARP increase in the federal matching rate on activities, states originally had a three-year period — from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2024 — to use the available state funds, attributable to the ARP’s increased FMAP, on activities to enhance, expand, or strengthen HCBS in Medicaid. The extended timeframe, of an additional year, will help to facilitate high-quality, cost-effective, person-centered services for people with Medicaid. This will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to remain in the setting of their choice—whether it is their home or another setting—and remain a valued part of their communities.

This ARP funding allows states to identify and implement changes aimed at addressing existing HCBS workforce and structural issues. It will also help expand states’ capacity to provide critical services and meet the needs of family caregivers and people on HCBS waitlists. Moreover, states can use these funds to tailor HCBS activities based on the needs and priorities of their residents. For example, states can use the funds to provide additional support to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals who need long-term services and supports, who are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, and who might otherwise be in more costly nursing homes and other institutions instead of their own homes. Some states are also using the funds to increase pay and benefits for direct service workers, which many states were unable to do before the ARP funding increase due to funding shortages and restrictions.

Critical safeguards are in place through the ARP legislation and CMS’ guidance to certify that these funds are used appropriately. Between now and the March 2025 deadline, CMS will continue to monitor states’ progress and compliance to ensure funding is used to strengthen HCBS under their Medicaid program.

Additional information on states’ spending plans — including a recently updated infographic summarizing planned activities and key investments — can be found at Medicaid.gov https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/home-community-based-services/guidance/strengthening-and-investing-home-and-community-based-services-for-medicaid-beneficiaries-american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021-section-9817-spending-plans-and-narratives/index.html.

To review the guidelines for the use of the ARP funds, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd21003.pdf.

To review the State Medicaid Director Letter extending the spending deadline, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd22002.pdf.

Technical Assistance for Small, Rural, Vulnerable Hospitals

Date: June 8, 2022

Technical Assistance for Small, Rural, Vulnerable Hospitals

The Texas A and M University Rural and Community Health Institute provides targeted technical assistance for rural hospitals to improve quality of care, maintain access to care, and address the challenges that are unique to small hospitals and the towns they serve. Assistance may be on-site and/or remote.

Common technical assistance support requests include:

  • Finance challenges
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Community engagement
  • Hospital board challenges
  • Grant writing

Eligible participants include:

  • Hospitals defined by the federal or state government as rural (Federal Office of Rural Health Policy eligibility tool)
  • All Critical Access Hospitals
  • Hospitals operated by tribes and tribal organizations
  • Rural hospitals evaluating healthcare services provided to the community

Entities participating in the Delta Region Health Systems Technical Assistance or the Rural Healthcare Provider Transitions Project (RHPTP) program are ineligible. Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant or Small Rural Hospital Improvement Project program participants may apply.

This is a technical assistance opportunity.

Thirty hospitals are selected each year to participate. Five hospitals will receive Tier I status, and 25 hospitals will receive Tier II status. A table showing the program services by Tier is available in the FAQs.

A link to the online application portal is available on the program website.

Applicant webinar recording

Click to view more information.

Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) Technical Assistance Center

Date: June 8, 2022

Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) Technical Assistance Center

The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will offer funding for a single entity to provide technical assistance for rural hospitals. The program purpose is to ensure that rural hospitals and the communities they serve have the information and resources needed to make informed decisions as to whether the REH model of care is best for their communities, and if so, facilitate a successful implementation of REH requirements for those hospitals converting to this new provider type.

Program objectives include:

  • Assessing feasibility of the REH model
  • Assisting with the application to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for REH designation
  • Providing ongoing support to REHs implementing new services and achieving REH compliance standards

Eligible applicants are domestic public and nonprofit private entities, including tribes and tribal organizations.

Award ceiling: $2,500,000
Project period: 5 years
Estimated number of awards: 1

Links to the full announcement, application instructions, and the online application process are available through grants.gov.

Applicant webinar
Date: June 13, 2022
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 PM Eastern
Call-in umber: 833.568.8864
Meeting ID: 160-512-0478
Passcode: 46676237

Click to find more information.

The CMS National Quality Strategy: A Person-Centered Approach to Improving Quality

Date: June 6, 2022

The CMS National Quality Strategy: A Person-Centered Approach to Improving Quality

Explore the role of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in improving health outcomes and healthcare quality, and the challenges that have been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMS blog describes 8 core goals, consisting of embedding quality into the care journey, advancing health equity, promoting safety, fostering engagement, strengthening resiliency, embracing the digital age, incentivizing innovation, and increasing alignment across various agencies to improve value.

Click to read more.

Safe Storage and Safe Disposal Educational Video Series

Date: May 31, 2022

Safe Storage and Safe Disposal Educational Videos

Coming off another successful Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) wants to keep the momentum going in raising awareness on the importance of safe medication storage and disposal.

CADCA’s partnership with the AmerisouceBergen Foundation has led to the creation of a series of videos on Safe Storage, Safe Disposal and Best Practices in Communities for Safe Storage and Disposal! 

These videos provide engaging, storytelling-based lessons on safe storage and disposal strategies that individuals and families can implement in their communities.

Video 1: Safe Storage Tips and Strategies

Video 2: Safe Disposal Tips and Strategies

Video 3: Safe Storage And Disposal Best Practices

May in Brief: HRSA Increases Equitable Access to Health Care

Date: May 31, 2022

May in Brief: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Increases Equitable Access to Health Care

In May—National Mental Health Awareness Month—many of HRSA’s efforts bolstered President Biden’s National Mental Health Strategy and underscored a key HRSA priority: addressing the mental health needs of children and families in underserved communities across the country. HRSA awarded nearly $25 million to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services, launched a maternal mental health hotline, and urged states to strengthen support for children’s mental health. In addition, HRSA announced the availability of $5 million to advance equity in cancer screening at health centers. HRSA leaders were also recognized for their remarkable service to the nation.

This month, key HRSA leaders were recognized for their service to the nation:

HRSA Deputy Administrator Diana Espinosa, winner of the 2021 Distinguished Executive Award, introduced President Biden at the White House ceremony announcing the Presidential Rank Awards and marking Public Service Recognition Week.

Suma Nair, Director of the Office of Quality Improvement, in the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care was named a Finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for COVID-19 Response and a Top 12 Finalist for People’s Choice Award. Known as the Sammies, the service awards are administered by the Partnership for Public Service. Cast your vote for Suma!

HHS Leaders Urge States to Maximize Efforts to Support Children’s Mental Health
Last week, HRSA and leaders across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint letter (PDF – 584 KB) to states, tribes, and jurisdictions encouraging them to prioritize and maximize their efforts to strengthen children’s mental health and well-being. As part of the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health, Administrator Johnson also joined other HHS leaders to host a roundtable discussion to support President Biden’s whole-of-government strategy and take up the Secretary’s charge to strengthen mental health. Watch their remarks.

HHS Awards Nearly $25 Million to Expand Access to School-Based Health Services
HRSA awarded nearly $25 million to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services in communities across the country. Awards will support local partnerships between schools and health centers to provide children and youth the comprehensive physical and mental health care they need. HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson met with children and health center staff at Quincy Jones Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA, where the Universal Community Health Center operates a school-based health center. While there, she heard from students on the benefits of easy and convenient access to quality health care.

HHS Launches New Maternal Mental Health Hotline
On Mother’s Day, HRSA launched the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a new, confidential, toll-free hotline for expecting and new moms experiencing mental health challenges. Moms can call or text 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS and connect with counselors for mental health support.

HHS Announces $5 Million in Funding to Advance Equity in Cancer Screening at Health Centers
HRSA announced the availability of $5 million for community health centers to increase equitable access to life-saving cancer screenings. This funding supports President Biden’s Unity Agenda and his call to action on cancer screening and early detection as part of the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to end cancer as we know it.

HRSA Hosts National Telehealth Conference 
HRSA’s Office of Telehealth and telehealth.hhs.gov convened our inaugural national conference on telehealth, drawing an audience of nearly 4,000 and including leaders from across HHS, FCC, USDA and other agencies. View the conference sessions and a video about HRSA’s telehealth efforts and advances.

See News & Announcements on HRSA.gov.