Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

February 27, 2020

Today, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced new leadership for the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.  Former Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer will be the fifth chair in the 32-year history of the Committee.

Also known as the NACRHHS, the Committee was formed in 1987 as an independent advisory group focused on provision of health care in rural areas.  Joining the chair for two meetings each year are 20 committee members who include hospital CEOs, educators, experts on aging, physicians, certified registered nurse anesthetists, physician assistants, researchers, community health center directors and state office of rural health directors.  For each meeting, two areas of focus are selected; committee members conduct site visits and follow up with a policy brief and recommendations for the HHS Secretary.

The most recent meeting, in September of 2019, provided an opportunity for the Committee to identify topics aligned with HHS priorities.  Past meetings have covered topics such as Adverse Childhood Experiences, the impact of suicide, improving oral health care services, and modernizing Rural Health Clinic provisions.  Visit the NACRHHS for more details, including the Committee’s recommendations on each of these topics.  The Committee will host its first meeting of 2020 beginning Monday, March 2nd and running through March 4th in Atlanta, Georgia.

What’s New

National Drug Control Strategy.  The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently released a strategy document for reducing the availability of illicit drugs and implementing prevention, treatment, and recovery.  The document identifies rural areas as high-need and calls on federal agencies to build the addiction treatment workforce, expand scientific understanding of peer-supported recovery, and improve efficiency in surveillance and the public health infrastructure.

Funding and Opportunities

SAMSHA Learning Communities for Peer Workforce Supervision – March 2.   The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is developing a virtual learning community to guide supervision of peer support workers in treatment and recovery programs.  Over the course of 12 weeks, participants will expand their understanding of peer support work, acquire practical tools for supervision, and connect with other who have similar goals and challenges.  The program was designed by SAMSHA’s Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center (BRSS-TACS), a resource for recovery supports and services for people with mental or substance use disorders and their families.

Department of Treasury Support for Rural Community Development – April 21. The U.S. Department of Treasury Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund provides grants to finance affordable housing and community revitalization efforts that benefit low-income people and communities. Community facilities that have been funded under the program include health clinics, senior housing, wellness centers, and oral health facilities.  For certification, CDFIs are required to provide 60 percent of lending or financial services to economically-distressed areas or minority populations.  A separate opportunity, Department of Treasury Support for Native Community Development – April 21, fosters economic self-determination through the CDFI program.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Programs – April 23. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) opened its application for the NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program. The NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program (LRP) awards up to $100,000 to qualifying clinicians providing substance use disorder treatment in rural communities. In addition to the NHSC Rural Community LRP, NHSC opened its application for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program the NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program. Both programs also provide health care services in rural communities as well. All programs use one application, but clinicians can only apply to one program.

CDC National Center of Excellence for Prevention of Childhood Agricultural Injury – April 24.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will make one award from an investment of $7.5 million to support research, translation, education, and outreach with the long-term goal of protecting children in agricultural environments.

USDA Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grants – April 30.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make grants of up to $150,000 to help rural communities identify and plan facility needs.  Eligible applicants include public entities, nonprofit organizations and Federally recognized tribes outside the boundaries of a city of 20,000 or more.  Points will be awarded to applications that address USDA’s goal to reduce Substance Use Disorder in high-risk rural communities.

CMS Minority Research Grant Program – June 2.  The Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will make two awards of $250,000 each to support research at minority-serving institutions.  Eligible applicants are public and private institutions of higher education that can enhance CMS capacity for reducing health disparities in minority populations.

Policy Updates

Visit the FORHP Policy page to see all recent updates and send questions to ruralpolicy@hrsa.gov.

HHS Issues Strategy to Reduce EHR Regulatory Burden. As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Patients over Paperwork initiative, the Department on Friday, February 21, issued the Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs. The report describes recommendations and next steps to reduce burden related to EHRs and describes sources of electronic health record (EHR)-related burden, referencing stakeholder feedback including challenges relevant to small and rural hospitals.

Learning Events and Technical Assistance

AgriSafe: Preventing Back Injury in Agricultural Settings – Thursday, February 27 at 1:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafe Network hosts a one-hour webinar on the effects of whole body vibration and other causes of back injuries and provide safety precautions for prevention.

Addressing Substance Use Disorder in Rural Public Housing – Thursday, February 27 at 1:00 pm ET.  The National Center for Public Housing hosts this one-hour webinar to explore federal and local efforts to address the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders in rural communities.

2020 Census Engagement Opportunities for Rural Health Stakeholders – Thursday, February 27 at 2:00 pm ET. The Rural Health Information Hub will host a one-hour Twitter Chat with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.  Experts will discuss strategies to maximize census responses to the 2020 Census in rural communities.  To participate, log on to Twitter and follow the hashtag #RuralHealthChat.

Addressing Rural Substance Use with RCORP Rural Centers of Excellence – Tuesday, March 3 at 1:00 pm ET.  This one-hour webinar features speakers from each of the three Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders.  They will share how the centers can help communities develop practices to prevent, treat, and facilitate long-term recovery.

Making the Most of the RWJF 2020 County Health Rankings – Tuesday, March 3 at 3:00 pm ET.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will hold a one-hour webinar to preview their annual report on the county-level factors that affect health outcomes.

Becoming a Host Site for the CDC Public Health Associate Program – Wednesday, March 4 at 2:00 pm ET.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Associate Program (PHAP) provides training for early-career public health professionals with a recent college degree and an interest in public service and public health. Throughout the two-year program, associates complete a comprehensive training curriculum and work at host sites located throughout the United States and US territories.  In this one-hour webinar, the CDC will provide assistance for host site applicants ahead of the application window, April 1-4.  CDC is particularly interested in reaching organizations that have not previously been PHAP host sites, including those located in or serving rural communities.

HRSA Virtual Job Fair – Wednesday, March 4 at 6:45 pm ET.  During this four-hour event, clinicians and trainees in medical, nursing, dental, and mental/behavioral health can interact with sites approved by the National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps to learn about open positions in underserved areas.  Employers and clinicians wishing to participate are required to register ahead of time.  The Virtual Job Fairs are hosted by the  Bureau of Health Workforce at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Addressing Stigma and HIV in Primary Care Settings – Thursday, March 5 at 3:00 pm ET.  In this one-hour webinar hosted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the HRSA-funded Southeast AIDS Education Training Center will discuss various forms of stigma and how it impacts patient outcomes. They will also share stigma reduction resources to assist health centers providing services to people living with HIV.

Indian Health Service Access2Success Small Business Conference – March 18-19 in Phoenix, AZ.  The Indian Health Service and the HHS Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization invite Native-owned companies eligible for federal contracts under the Buy Indian Act and companies who are seeking to partner with firms eligible under the Indian Small Business Economic Enterprise set aside or Indian Economic Enterprise set aside programs. Businesses can attend matchmaking sessions with tribal and federal representatives. Companies offering products and services in information technology, medical supplies and equipment, construction, architectural and engineering services, and health care staffing services are encouraged to attend. Registration is now open, but space is limited.

Register for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, March 30 – April 5. This week-long event is aimed at raising teenagers’ awareness and knowledge of facts about drug and alcohol. Launched in 2010 by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the annual observance relies on locally-planned school and community events that present scientific facts about drug and alcohol use, what causes addiction, and evidence-based strategies for helping friends or family.  NIDA provides an online guide for planning and promoting events, as well as free booklets and other resources for teens.  Research from 2016 showed that roughly 10% of rural teens meet criteria for alcohol use disorder.