Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: March 31, 2022

HRSA Public Health Scholarship Program – Applications due June 1. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce will invest $39 million for 26 awards. Awarded recipients will provide scholarships to individuals for public health training in professional, graduate, and/or certificate programs. Eligible applicants are government entities, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions with an existing public health training program and partnerships that can transition students into employment.  

One Stop Online for COVID Prevention and Treatment in Every County. The new website, COVID.gov, asks visitors to enter their county and then provides nearby locations for masks and respirators, vaccines and boosters, and all testing and treatment options. The site also maps out clinics and pharmacies with a test-to-treat option, where one can get tested and, if positive, immediately receive anti-viral pills. According to the White House, there are now more than 2,000 test-to-treat locations; the new website, announced yesterday, makes it easier to find them. 

Provider Relief Fund Reporting Period Closes Today. The Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal will close on March 31 for Reporting Period 2. Providers who received one or more PRF payment exceeding $10,000, in the aggregate, during the second Payment Received Period must report on their use of funds no later than March 31, 2022. Providers who fail to submit a completed report by the March 31 deadline will be subject to further enforcement actions such as repayment or exclusion from receiving and/or retaining future PRF payments. For more details, review the Reporting Non-Compliance Fact Sheet. To get started, providers must register in the Portal (if not yet completed). More information and resources can be found on the PRF Reporting web page.

Take Telehealth Technology Survey Today. Every two years, the HRSA-funded National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (TTAC)  asks a variety of questions about the types of technologies, roles, and future plans of organizations and individuals using telehealth technology. TTAC uses this data to 1) identify technologies of interest for future evaluations, toolkits, video series and other resources; 2) understand trends that are affecting the telehealth landscape regionally and nationwide; and 3) o determine how TTAC can better engage with its stakeholders. The survey takes less than 10 minutes and closes, Thursday, March 31st.

Census Bureau Updates Criteria for Defining Urban Areas. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau published its final criteria for defining urban areas based on the results of the 2020 Decennial Census. Rather than distinctions for urbanized area or an urban cluster, all areas with a population of at least 5,000 and containing at least 2,000 housing units will be designated urban areas. The notice defines rural as territory not defined as urban. Some federal and state agencies use the Census Bureau’s urban-rural classification for allocating funds, setting standards, and implementing aspects of their programs. Stakeholders should be aware that the changes to the urban area criteria also might affect the implementation of these programs.

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers.  In June 2021, HRSA launched an effort to improve access to substance use disorder treatment by paying for providers who are waivered to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) still have the opportunity to apply for a $3,000 payment on behalf of each provider who trained to obtain the waiver necessary to prescribe buprenorphine after January 1, 2019. Approximately $1.2 million in program funding remains available for RHCs and will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted. Send questions to DATA2000WaiverPayments@hrsa.gov. There is ongoing availability of a free online course for waiver eligibility training from the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine and the Providers Clinical Support System.