Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: November 12, 2021

COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Brings Public Health Focus to Rural Areas. On Wednesday, the White House announced a $785 million investment to respond to inequities in underserved communities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. The funding is based on recommendations from the Task Force that was created in January of this year to make specific recommendations for bolstering public health in rural areas and communities of color. The Task Force included rural representation in Tim Putnam, a former rural hospital administrator from Indiana who chaired the Healthcare Access and Quality Subcommittee. 

HRSA Celebrates National Rural Health Day. The public is invited to join the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) online on Thursday, November 18 at 11:30 am ET. Speakers and panelists from several agencies will share what HRSA has learned from the efforts at the federal level and from collaboration with state- and community-level partners. Health equity is a priority focus, and Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) grantees will share best practices from their projects that consider social determinants of health to improve health outcomes.

Wisconsin Project to Prevent Overdose Death Sees Results. The primary goal of the Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths Prevention Project – PDO for short – was to reduce the number of deaths and adverse events by 10 percent in three high-risk counties. Two counties targeted for the program are mostly metropolitan, one is rural. The report describes policy challenges to distributing Naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, through local public health agencies and the ways that officials were able to work through them. Although reducing stigma about addiction was not a stated goal of the PDO project, it was the first step in training as many people as possible to recognize an overdose and take action.

CDC: Infant Mortality Rates for Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Counties. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report data showing that, in 2019, the infant mortality rate was highest for non-Hispanic Black mothers in both urban (10.60 infant deaths per 1,000 live births) and rural (10.85). Second highest was infant deaths for American-Indian or Alaska Native mothers; in urban areas, the rate was 5.95 infant deaths per 1,000 live births and in rural, the number was 9.78. 

How CAHs Address Social Needs in their Communities. Critical Access Hospital (CAH) is a designation given to eligible rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  This policy brief summarizes CAH initiatives addressing social needs – access to education, food security, stable housing, employment, and interpersonal violence – that significantly impact health outcomes and health care costs. 

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers. In June of this year, the Health Resources and Services Administration (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 $1.5 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.