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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

February 17, 2016

What’s New

Update: Funding Opportunity for Accountable Health Communities Model – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided clarification on its funding opportunity for the AHC Model, a program that aims to lower health care costs by linking health-related social needs to clinical care.  Rural providers should be aware that applications will be considered even if an organization is unable to screen 75,000 beneficiaries per year, as required for participation. According to a Q&A recently issued by CMS,  “applicants are encouraged to create partnerships with clinical delivery sites and other organizations to reach this target number. Specifically, within the AHC model, applicants are permitted to organize model participants, including community service providers and clinical service delivery sites. We encourage applications from rural, urban, suburban and other types of geographically spread areas to submit applications.” The Accountable Health Communities Model is currently accepting applications through March 31, 2016. For questions and further information, email

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program – applications due April 5.  Primary care medical, dental and mental/behavioral health clinicians can get up to $50,000 to repay their health profession student loans in exchange for a two-year commitment to work at an approved NHSC site in a high-need, underserved area. In an effort to better integrate mental and behavioral health with primary care, the National Health Service Corps added two new changes to the Application and Program Guidance for the 2016 Loan Repayment Program application. Mental and behavioral health providers must now spend at least 32 hours each week providing patient care at approved health care sites – the same requirement for NHSC medical and dental providers. Previously, the requirement was 21 hours. Additionally, mental and behavioral health providers must work in a community-based setting. If the provider works at a private practice, the practice must be affiliated with a community-based facility that provides comprehensive health care services, including mental health.  Approved NHSC sites are located across the U.S., in both urban and rural areas, and can be found using the NHSC Jobs Center.

Funding Opportunities

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program – due March 14.  This grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) helps rural communities acquire equipment, infrastructure and technical assistance for telecommunications and telemedicine.  Eligible applicants including state and local governments, Federally-recognized Tribes, non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses are required to provide a minimum 15 percent match for grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.  USDA will hold an informational workshop via web on Thursday, February 18th at 1:00 pm ET.

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations – due March 15. Indian Tribal Organizations and State Agencies that currently hold an allowance for USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) are eligible to apply for awards of up to $200,000 for projects that provide nutrition information and services based on the 2016 SNAP Education Plan Guidance for nutrition, gardening and physical activities.

Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals – due March 15.  State and local governments, non-profit community organizations, tribal organizations, and colleges and universities may apply for awards up to $1.5 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to provide housing and services to homeless individuals with behavioral and/or substance abuse disorders.

Drug-Free Communities Support Program – due March 18.  SAMHSA will also award grants up to $125,000 to community-based coalitions to reduce substance abuse for youth aged 18 and younger.

Rural Research

Pilot Testing a Rural Health Clinic Quality Measurement Reporting System. To help Rural Health Clinics compete in a health care market increasingly focused on quality and value-based incentives, the Maine Rural Health Research Center has “piloted the reporting and use of a small set of primary care-relevant quality measures by a geographically diverse sample of RHCs.” This policy brief, released February 12, reports on the results, assessing the feasibility and utility of the reporting system and quality measures for the participating RHCs.

Policy Update

Request for Comments: New Quality Measures Due March 1.  CMS has released a draft Quality Measure Development Plan (MDP) to serve as a strategic framework for transition to the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models (APMs).  Beginning 2019, CMS will apply payment adjustments to eligible professional (e.g. physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) based on measures across four categories: quality, resource use, clinical practice improvement activities, and meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology.  This plan is an opportunity for rural providers and stakeholders to give CMS input on the beginning stages of the measure development process.  Comments can be sent 1) online at; 2) via the MDP dedicated email address; or  3) by U.S. mail to Eric Gilbertson, CMS MACRA Team; Health Services Advisory Group, Inc.; 3133 East Camelback Road, Suite 240; Phoenix, AZ 85016-4545.

Panel Forming for Patient Assessment Data – Nomination due February 26. As of February 12, CMS is accepting nominations for a technical expert panel (TEP) to aid the agency in its requirement to develop, implement, and maintain standardized patient assessment data for post-acute care settings, including skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and long-term care hospitals. The 12-person TEP will develop and test standardized questions for patient assessments, gather feedback on the standardized items under review, and identify setting-specific needs, concerns, and barriers regarding patient assessments, including those related to post-acute care in rural areas. CMS encourages interested parties to nominate themselves or others with experience and/or expertise as a post-acute care patient, provider, researcher, or advocate.

Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Expanding Behavioral Health Through Technology – Tuesday, February 23 at 1:00 pm ET.  Join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to learn about health IT innovations in behavioral health.

Using Technology to Enhance Addiction Treatment – Thursday, February 25th at 3:00 pm ET.  This webinar from the SAMSHA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions and the American Telemedicine Association will “explore a variety of the latest technology-based interventions for delivery of addictions treatment and recovery services in safety-net settings.”

Getting to Know Your Rural and Public Health Partners – Monday, February 29 at 3:00 pm ET.  This month’s webinar from the Rural Health Learning Collaborative will feature Speakers from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), the Rural Health Information Hub, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and CMS’s Quality Innovation Network National Coordinating Center will share valuable resources for rural health stakeholders.

School-Based Health Care via Telemedicine – Tuesday, March 1 at 2:00 pm ET.  Hosted by the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, this webinar will examine the most recent Telehealth Network Grant Program with a look at the challenges and potential solutions for school-based health care and review existing data for outcomes.

Approaching Deadlines

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program – February 25.

Panel Forming for Patient Assessment Data – February 26.

Request for Comments: New Quality Measures – March 1.

Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder – March 4.

Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Program – March 4.

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