Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: February 17, 2022

The Problem of the Color Line: Spatial Access to Hospital Services for Racial Minorities. In an issue focused on racism and health, the online publication Health Affairs examines the way that both race and geography contribute to uneven health outcomes in the United States. Rural ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) with high Black or American Indian/Alaska Native representation were significantly farther from hospital services than ZCTAs with high White representation. In urban areas, the opposite was true, with high White ZCTAs being farther from most services.

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. A few weeks ago, 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.

New Funding for Virtual Care. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced $55 million awarded to the Health Resources and Services Administration- (HRSA)nfunded health centers to increase access to health care through virtual care such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital patient tools, and health information technology platforms. 

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.