Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

February 21, 2019

What’s New

Black Lung Clinics Program Turns 40.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the program that provides funding for medical, outreach, and benefits counseling for active, inactive, and disabled coal miners throughout the country.  Last year, data reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicated that coal miners in central Appalachia are disproportionately affected with as many as 1 in 5 having evidence of black lung.  Administered by HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, the program supports nearly 60 clinic sites across 15 states, serving more than 13,000 coal miners between July 2016 and June 2017.

MCHB Announces Phase 1 Winners of Remote Pregnancy Monitoring Contest.  HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) selected ten winners from the first phase of its Remote Pregnancy Monitoring Grand Challenge.  The winning innovations are technology-based solutions that help providers remotely monitor the health of pregnant women, and empower them to make informed decisions about their own care.  Last year, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that families living in non-urban-adjacent rural counties faced increased risk of out-of-hospital birth, birth in a hospital that does not provide obstetric care, and preterm birth, after losing hospital-based obstetric services.

USDA and HHS Partner to Create Recovery Housing in Rural Communities.  Through this collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), nonprofit organizations will be able to purchase single-family homes at a discount from USDA and convert them to transitional housing for people recovering from opioid misuse.  See the Funding Opportunities section below for more USDA programs addressing the opioid crisis in rural communities.

Funding Opportunities

Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies – Coming Soon. HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will soon announce a new funding opportunity aimed at improving access to maternal and obstetrics care in rural communities.  The Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS) Program will fund three awards to health care networks serving rural communities.  According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, almost half of U.S. counties are without an OB/GYN; more than 10 million women live in these counties, which are mainly in the Central and Mountain West regions.

Two Loan Repayment Programs for National Health Service Corps – Extended to February 28. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) provides financial assistance to health care professionals in exchange for a commitment to work at approved sites in rural and underserved areas. Application cycles are currently open for two NHSC programs: The Loan Repayment Program awards up to $50,000 toward student loans in exchange for a two-year commitment. The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program provides up to $75,000 in exchange for a three-year commitment and expands eligibility to health care professionals and sites delivering substance use disorder treatment services.

HUD Community Development for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages – March 20.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will make 75 awards of up to $4 million each to Native American tribal organizations and governments, as well as private institutions of higher education.  The Community Development Block Grants are awarded for the development of viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including the creation of decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities primarily for persons with low- and moderate- incomes.

ARC Funding for Economic Revitalization in Appalachia – April 10.  Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) is a federally-funded program of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).  Approximately $45 million will be awarded to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.  Eligible applicants include state and local governments, tribal organizations, and institutions of higher learning for projects that enhance economic and workforce development.  One priority area is work that strengthens the healthcare sector, improves health conditions that affect the economy, and supports the response to substance abuse.

OMH Hepatitis B Demonstration Grant Program – April 13.  State and local governments, including federally-recognized tribal governments are among the entities eligible for this funding aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality from the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), an infection transmitted through sexual contact, sharing drug injection needles, or from mother to baby at birth.  Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported increased incidence of HBV among young adults in rural communities that is associated with an increase in injection-drug use.

USDA Community Connect Grant Program – April 15.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make 15 awards of up to $3 million each for projects that bring broadband service to all premises in rural, economically-challenged communities where the service does not exist.  Eligible applicants include nonprofits, for-profit corporation, state and local governments, and federally recognized tribes.  A recent press release from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports improvement in rural broadband access, but that nearly 20 million Americans still lack access to a fixed broadband connection meeting the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps

USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants – April 15 and May 15.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has two programs to link rural communities to training and resources through telecommunication. The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program – Opioid – April 15 is a $10 million investment in telemedicine projects that have opioid treatment as their primary purpose.  Applications will be scored by rurality and projects should focus on prevention, treatment, and/or recovery from opioid use disorder.  The Traditional Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program – May 15 makes awards ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 to eligible public and private organizations, including federally-recognized tribes, to acquire interactive video equipment, technical assistance and instructional programming, network hardware and software, and broadband facilities.

HRSA Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Grant Program – April 22.  The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expects approximately $6.4 million available to fund up to 32 rural public or nonprofit private health care organizations to improve patient care and chronic disease outcomes through implementation of evidence-based approaches to quality improvement and delivery of coordinated care in rural primary care settings.  The program also encourages care that measures value by outcomes, patient-centered medical homes, and activities that integrate behavioral health into the primary care setting.  Previously funded organizations under this program included projects focused on care coordination, chronic disease management, integrated care delivery systems and reduction in preventable emergency department and hospital admissions, among other topics.

Policy Updates

Visit the FORHP Policy page to see all recent updates and send questions to ruralpolicy@hrsa.gov

CMS Launches New Podcast Series. This week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched “CMS: Beyond the Policy,” a new podcast highlighting updates and changes to policies and programs in an easily accessible and conversational format.  The podcast was created as a new method to explain the agency’s policies and programs. The first episode focuses on Evaluation and Management Coding (E/M Codes) changes finalized in the Calendar Year 2019 Physician Fee Schedule, and also touches on the new telehealth and virtual services finalized in the 2019 rule. This episode will be available for download on iTunes and Google Play in the coming days.

CMS to Test New Model for Emergency Medical Services. On February 14, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMS Innovation Center) announced the new Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model. This voluntary, five-year payment model is designed to provide greater flexibility to ambulance care teams to address emergency health care needs of Medicare beneficiaries following a 911 call. CMS anticipates releasing a Request for Applications in Summer 2019 to solicit Medicare-enrolled ambulance suppliers and providers. A recent study from the Rural & Underserved Health Research Center examined differences in ambulance usage among Medicare beneficiaries by state.

Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Rural Philanthropy Toolkit – Tuesday, February 26 at 1:00 pm ET.  The Rural Health Information Hub will host this one-hour webinar on a toolkit to help rural organizations create and maintain partnerships with philanthropies. The toolkit provides steps and resources for connecting with philanthropic organizations and examples of emerging strategies in rural communities.

Making the Most of the 2019 County Health Rankings – Tuesday, February 26 at 3:00 pm ET.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers this hour-long preview of new features and resources for their annual report on health and well-being measures that will be released on March 19, 2019.  The 2018 County Health Rankings examined the social and economic factors contributing to high rates of poor health outcomes, particularly for minority and rural populations.

Finding Local Resources Through Eldercare Locator – Wednesday, February 27 at 2:00 pm ET – The Eldercare Locator connects older adults and their caregivers with trusted local resources.  The newly redesigned website, hosted by the Administration for Community Living, includes a searchable database of local agencies and programs and offers a library of helpful, consumer-based resource materials. In this hour-long webinar, resource experts on aging and Native American aging will discuss what’s newly available.

NACCHO Rural Health Section First Quarterly Call – Wednesday, February 27 at 2:00 pm ET.  The National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) is developing a workgroup of NACCHO members and partners addressing specific rural public health issues.  This hour-long session is the first call of 2019 and will focus on harm reduction programs in rural settings.

Finding and Using Health Statistics on the Web – Thursday, February 28 at 12:00 pm ET.  During this hour-long webinar hosted by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, participants will get a hands-on course websites holding local, state, and national health data sets and statistics.

Save the Dates: Virtual Job Fairs for SUD Clinicians and Employers – through March 7.  HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce will hold a series of virtual job fairs to match employers and clinicians treating substance use disorder (SUD).  Virtual job fairs are free, interactive events held online allowing sites approved by the National Health Service Corps and/or NURSE Corps a chance to discuss their site, the populations they serve, and currently available positions.  Clinicians and trainees in medical, nursing, dental, and mental/behavioral health can learn about hundreds of opportunities in rural and medically underserved communities.

Addressing the Burden of COPD in Rural America – Thursday, March 14 at 2:00 pm ET.  In 2018, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed significantly higher estimates in rural areas of adult prevalence, Medicare hospitalizations, and deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition that makes breathing difficult. In this hour-long presentation, members of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services will discuss their report and recommendations on rural-urban disparities for COPD, and shed light on a patient’s perspective living with the disease.

Approaching Deadlines

Youth Health Equity Fellowship – February 22

Rural Health Innovation and Transformation Technical Assistance – February 22

Public Safety and Victim Services in Tribal Communities – February 26

NHSC Loan Repayment Program – Extended to February 28

NHSC Loan Repayment Program for Substance Use Disorder Workforce – Extended to February 28

Comments Requested:  Proposed Updates to the Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D Programs – March 1

NIH: Small Business Innovations for Health Disparities – Letters of Intent March 1

NIH Researching HIT for Health Disparities – March 4

Advanced Nursing Education Nurse Practitioner Residency Program – March 4

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods Innovation Grants – March 6

DOJ Grants for Children Experiencing Domestic Violence – March 6

Nominations:  Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) – March 8

AMAF Community Health Grants for Diabetes/Hypertension – March 8

Veteran Nurses in Primary Care Training Program – March 8

Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program – March 11

Licensure Portability Program for Telehealth – March 11

Native Youth and Culture Fund – March 12

New Access Points for Health Centers – March 12

RWJF Interdisciplinary Research Leaders – March 13

NIH/NIDA: Mobile Technologies for Substance-Use Treatment  – March 19

HUD Community Development for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages – March 20

Increasing Access to HIV Primary Health Care Services – March 22

HRSA Rural Residency Planning and Development Program – March 25

SAMHSA: Expanding Capacity for Substance Use Disorder – March 25

Rural Health and Economic Development Analysis – March 27

Indian Health Service Scholarships – March 29

Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program – March 29

SAMHSA: Underage Substance Use in Tribal Communities – March 29

Rural Primary Care SBIRT for Maternal Opioid Use – March 29

National Indian Health Board Health Policy Fellowships – March 30

Comments Requested: Proposed Updates to Interoperability & Patient Access to Health Data – Early April

ACL Alzheimer’s Disease Programs Initiative – April 1

NIH: Small Business Innovations for Health Disparities – April 1

Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility – EMS Supplement – April 5

CDC Immunization and Vaccine Programs for Children – April 8

ARC Funding for Economic Revitalization in Appalachia – April 10

OMH Hepatitis B Demonstration Grant Program – April 13

USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants – Opioid – April 15

Nurse Anesthetist Traineeship Program – April 15

CDC Violent Death Reporting System – April 15

USDA Community Connect Grant Program – April 15

Strengthening Care for HIV and Opioid Use Disorder – April 16

HRSA Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Grant Program – April 22

Mary Kay Foundation Domestic Violence Shelter Grants – April 30

HRSA Maternal Opioid Misuse Model – May 6

USDA Traditional Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program – May 15

Capacity Building for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research – May 31

USAC Telecommunications Program for Rural Health Care – May 31

USDA Rural Broadband Loan and Grant Program – May 31

Research for Smoking Cessation in Disadvantaged Populations – June 13

Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program – Ongoing through August 2019

NIH: Research for Disparities Among Minority/Underserved Children – Cycles thru May 2020

Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021

Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans – Ongoing

Funding for Rural Water and Waste Disposal Projects –  Ongoing

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