Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Announcements

Date: June 16, 2022

HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program – Medication-Assisted Treatment Access – Applications Due July 29. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will make approximately 10 awards of up to $1 million per year to establish new access points for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in rural areas. Applicants can be any public or private, non-profit, or for-profit entity, but the proposed MAT access points must be located in HRSA-designated rural areas and cannot currently provide MAT as a clinical service. To learn more, join a webinar for applicants on Thursday, June 23 at 2:00 pm. Registration is not required, and a recording will be made available for those who cannot attend. Join by phone: 1-833-568-8864; Participant Code: 160 096 3647.

New Public Health AmeriCorps is Recruiting. In April, the federal AmeriCorps joined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to announce a new and ongoing investment in recruitment and training for careers in public health at the local level. In its first year, the new initiative is expected to recruit 3,000 members who will learn from the expertise and best practices of existing CDC, AmeriCorps and other public health programs. Applications are being accepted for organizations in each state; many are directing efforts to rural areas that have been underserved. 

Access to Primary Care: HRSA’s Innovation ChallengeLast week, HRSA announced a national competition with a total of $1 million in cash prizes for low-cost, scalable solutions that improve patient access to primary care and link health care to social services. The competition is open to broad public participation, including individuals, groups, health care organizations, and other entities. Submissions for phase 1 are due Tuesday, August 2nd. For more information, join an upcoming webinar on Wednesday, June 29 at 3:00 pm

HHS Allows for Audio-Only Telehealth. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued guidance stating that audio-only telemedicine appointments comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, as long as providers take measures to protect patient privacy. HHS’s Office of Civil Rights says that this is an important tool for reaching people in rural areas with limited internet access, and/or those who are unable to use video. 

Telehealth Use for Mental Health Patients in Rural Louisiana. Researchers looked at 7,069 telehealth visits that took place between April 2020 and March 2021 to determine what and how socioeconomic factors affected remote mental health services. Some findings were not surprising, e.g., telehealth use is lower among elderly patients, and help-seeking behavior is higher among women than men. But the study also found that intensity – the number of telehealth visits for each patient – varied by the nature of illness, presence of multiple chronic conditions, and discharge status. 

COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage by Race and Ethnicity, December 2020–November 2021. The latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows differences by geography (including rural/urban), age, household income, and health insurance status. Separately, a group of researchers asked rural Oklahomans about their perceptions of COVID-19 vaccines, and found that the most common reasons for hesitancy were their rapid development and lack of research about long-term effects. 

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.