Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Announcements

Date: May 19, 2022

New Federal Funding to Increase Internet Access. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Internet for All, a $65 billion investment included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – that passed last November. The federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within Commerce, has opened the application window for several programs that will support efforts in states and U.S. territories to close the digital gap in areas with little or no high-speed internet. This is a particular issue in rural communities given long-standing gaps relative to urban areas. A separate program, the Affordable Connectivity Program, helps low-income households pay for monthly internet service and provides discounts for laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. For more information about these opportunities as they arise, sign up for the newsletter from the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth at HRSA.

DOT Previews the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides up to $1 billion over the next five years for transportation infrastructure that facilitates mobility, access, and economic development. Rural areas face considerable challenges with transportation which creates ongoing barriers getting to and from needed health care services. For facilities eligible to apply for the funding – state, local, and tribal governments, as well as public and nonprofit planning organizations – the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold a one-hour webinar TODAY at 1:30 pm ET to provide a preview.

Questions Answered About New Sites for the NHSC – Deadline Extended to June 7. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will hold a two-hour Q&A session for facilities applying to become an approved site for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Approved sites gain the ability to recruit and retain qualified clinicians in medical, dental, and behavioral health professions; post vacancies to HRSA’s national Health Workforce Connector; and participate in HRSA Virtual Job Fairs to connect with job-seeking primary care trainees and practicing clinicians. Today’s Q&A session for applicants starts at 11:30 am ET. Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Health Clinics are encouraged to apply to become a service site. Last month’s webinar for rural providers is archived at the Rural Health Information Hub. Additional funding from the American Rescue Plan has created more opportunities for rural clinicians to receive loan repayment from the NHSC but, to qualify, a clinician has to be working at an eligible NHSC site.

Latest Data Show Growth and Widened Disparities in Firearm Death Rates. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing death by firearm is a growing public health problem. From 2019 to 2020, the firearm homicide rate increased about 35 percent to the highest rate recorded in more than 25 years. The firearm suicide rate, higher than that for firearm homicide, remained level but data showed highest rates for males, older adults, and non-Hispanic White and American Indian or Alaska Native persons. 

HRSA Launches Crisis Hotline for Expecting and New Mothers. Professional counselors are staffing the line around the clock, offering mental health support in English or Spanish.  Research from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention shows that about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression that may be missed or misunderstood by family. The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is funded by HRSA through the agency’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). In response to the nationwide shortage of baby formula, MCHB issued guidance for families and providers, with additional information from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Feedback Requested to Improve the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network – Deadline extended to May 23. Last month, HRSA released a Request for Information seeking input on ways to strengthen the program that ensures availability and access to donor organs for patients with end-stage organ failure. Research shows social determinants of health create disparities in access to organ transplantation, particularly for racial and ethnic minorities, groups with lower socioeconomic status, and patients in rural areas.

HRSA Celebrates National Nurses Month. HRSA is commemorating National Nurses Month by highlighting the significant contributions of our country’s nurses. HRSA currently has more than 7,700 National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and 500 Nurse Corps participants serving at rural sites and schools across the country. About 39 percent of all NHSC nurses serve in a rural community throughout the nation. In AY 2020-2021, the Advanced Nursing Education Nurse Practitioner Residency programs trained 368 post graduate, licensed and certified Nurse Practitioners, the majority of whom trained in primary care (99 percent), medically underserved (99 percent), and rural (44 percent) settings. Join HRSA in recognizing that ‘Nurses Make a Difference’ by following along on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers. In June 2021, 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 $1.2 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.