Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: March 10, 2022

New Data on Rural-Urban Disparities in COVID-19 Vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that, in the first four months of the vaccine’s availability, coverage for adults overall was lower in rural than in urban counties. New data released last week show that the rural-urban gap in COVID-19 vaccination coverage has more than doubled since April 2021. 

Provider Relief Fund Reporting Period Closes Soon. The Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal will close on March 31 for Reporting Period 2. Providers who received one or more PRF payment exceeding $10,000, in the aggregate, during the second Payment Received Period must report on their use of funds no later than March 31, 2022. To get started they must register in the Portal (if not yet completed). More information and resources can be found on the PRF Reporting web page.

Suicide Rates Decline, But Remain High for Certain Groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing suicide rates were inversely related to county urbanization level, with the most rural (noncore) counties experiencing the highest rate (20.6 per 100,000). Overall, there was a three percent decline in the suicide rate in 2020, a downward trend that started in 2019. While the rate is 13.9 per 100,000 in the general U.S. population, disparities persist. The rates were highest among persons who were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (23.9 per 100,000), followed by non-Hispanic White (16.9 per 100,000). 

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.