Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: April 21, 2022

Apply for New Community Health Worker Training Program – Deadline June 11. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced availability of $226.5 million for a new program building the pipeline of public health workers at the community level. The multiyear effort will support training and apprenticeship programs for the critical role of trusted messenger connecting people to care and support. Administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce, the program will train as many as 13,000 community health workers who will address needs in rural and underserved communities. These roles, providing culturally competent and individualized services, are critical in rural areas where health services are limited

USDA Launches Effort to Fund Economic Development in Rural Communities. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new collaboration between federal agencies and local leaders and residents. The Rural Partners Network is a whole-of-government approach that includes 16 federal agencies and regional commissions to help rural communities access government resources and funding. At launch, selected communities in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and certain Tribes within Arizona will participate to share local concerns and ensure rural communities have a voice in policymaking. 

HRSA to Host First National Telehealth Conference. Over the course of two days (May 16-17), public and private sector leaders will discuss best practices and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics include the role of telehealth in underserved communities, achieving health equity through improved broadband connectivity, and telehealth as a model for integrating behavioral health care during the pandemic and beyond. 

HHS Renews Public Health Emergency. On April 12, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) extended the current Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration for another 90 days. The most recent continuation of the PHE was set to expire on April 16, 2022. The extension of the PHE means the continuation of flexibilities for health care providers, such as the Coronavirus Waivers issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

HHS Distributing $1.75 Billion in Provider Relief Fund Payments. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced payments, distributed through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA), to 3,680 providers across the country. Since November 2021, HRSA has distributed approximately $13.5 billion from the fund to offset costs related to COVID-19. 

Funds Awarded to Strengthen the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Also last week, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) announced $16 million in awards administered by its Maternal and Child Health Bureau to support pregnant people and parents with young children.

Study on Video-Enabled Tablets for Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Care. In an open-access article on the JAMA Network, researchers describe their findings when 471,791 rural U.S. veterans with a history of mental health care use received video-enabled tablets to access services. The study included rural veterans identified by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) as a high-risk for suicide, and compared monthly mental health service utilization for patients who received VA tablets during COVID-19 with patients who were not issued tablets over 10 months before and after tablet shipment.

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers. In June 2021, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (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.