Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: January 20, 2022

New Grant Awards to Reduce Burnout Among Health Care Workforce. Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $103 million going to 45 grantees. The initiative comprises two programs to promote mental health and well-being and reduce burnout among health care professionals and first responders; a third program will provide tailored training and technical assistance to the other grantees of this effort. The funding is a direct response to the depression, anxiety, and burnout experienced by health care workers during the pandemic. 

New Funding Available for Rural Opioid Response Program – Applications Due April 19. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced funding for the next phase in the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP), a multi-year initiative to address behavioral health care challenges, including substance use disorder (SUD), since 2018. For the new program under RCORP, approximately 26 award recipients will receive $500,000 each per year for a four-year period of performance. Grantees will address barriers to quality care for SUD and behavioral health through a coordinated, evidence-based approach to services. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) will hold a technical assistance webinar for applicants on Thursday, February 3, 2022 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. ET. A recording will be made available for those who cannot attend. For dial-in information, view the Notice of Funding Opportunity on Grants.gov, click the Package tab, then Preview, and Download Instructions; technical assistance information is on page (ii). You do not need to register in advance for the webinar. Please email ruralopioidresponse@hrsa.gov for questions and a link to the recording.

Spread the Word About Vaccine Boosters. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released new resources – posters, flyers, videos, and talking points – to help promote the extra protection from COVID-19 boosters. All vaccinated adults aged 18+ are eligible for a booster. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded booster eligibility to include adolescents ages 12 to 17, recommending that they receive a booster shot five months after their initial vaccination. The CDC also released a new resource, based on input from rural health departments and organizations, with 12 strategies to increase vaccine uptake in rural communities (pdf). Search by zip code to find nearby locations providing adult and pediatric vaccines and boosters for COVID-19 and the flu at vaccines.gov.

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Vaccine Requirements. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services health care worker vaccine mandate outlined in the Omnibus Health Care Staff Vaccination rule. As a result of the decision, health care providers subject to the rule in the 24 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming) covered by this decision will now need to establish plans and procedures to ensure their staff are vaccinated and to have their employees receive at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The decision does not affect compliance timelines for providers in the District of Columbia, the territories, and the 25 states where the preliminary injunction was previously lifted. See the guidance released on January 14, 2022 for additional information.

HHS Renews Public Health Emergency. On January 14, the U.S. Department of Health and 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 January 16, 2022. The extension of the PHE means the continuation of flexibilities for health care providers, such as the Coronavirus Waivers issued by CMS.

HRSA Seeking Nominations for Migrant Health Advisory. Members of the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health serve four-year terms to advise the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary on the selection, funding, and operation of Migrant Health Centers. Seven positions of the 15-member council are currently open. See the Federal Register notice for more details on eligibility; nominations will be accepted on a continuous basis.  

CDC Evaluates State-Led Surveillance of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at data from six states mandated to report on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition that occurs when newborn babies experience withdrawal from drugs. A previous study of these states – Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia – indicated that the reporting helped determine the prevalence of NAS and identify communities more severely affected. The current report is based on answers to a follow-up questionnaire given to epidemiologists and birth defects program managers from the same six states. 

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers. In June 2021, 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.