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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

May 25, 2016

What’s New

VA Announces Telemental Health Resource Centers. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ new Telemental Health Resource Centers “will provide Veterans, particularly those living in rural areas, with rapid access to mental health services where local barriers exist.”  The first of seven locations is already operational in West Haven, CT and focuses on severe mental health issues such as chronic depression and bipolar disorder.  The remaining resource centers – in Charleston, SC; Salt Lake City, UT; Pittsburgh, PA; Boise, ID; Seattle, WA; and Portland, OR – will open this summer.

Study:  CAHs Safer, Less Expensive For Common Procedures. The study, published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 1.6 million hospital stays for common operations and found that, compared to larger hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals in rural areas had better outcomes for less cost.  For the four operations studied – gallbladder removal, colon surgery, hernia repair and appendectomy – the risk of dying within 30 days of the operation was the same at CAHs and larger hospitals.  But the risk of suffering major complication after surgery, such as heart attack or pneumonia was lower at critical access hospitals, where costs to the Medicare system were nearly $1,400 less per patient.

Course on Agriculture Health and Safety.  The International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health (ISASH) will hold a certificate course for rural health professionals, employers and workers to establish core level knowledge of injury and illness hazards, risk management, safety and health regulations and other issues related to farm work.  ISASH provides up to five stipends of $400 each and discounts are offered for those who register by Wednesday, June 15th.

Funding Opportunities

Brownfields Area Wide Planning Grant.  A brownfield is designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a property for which expansion, redevelopment may be complicated by a hazardous contaminant.  For rural areas, cleaning up and reinvesting in these health-risk properties could help create stronger communities with better health outcomes for its residents. The next Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant competition is scheduled to open this spring and the EPA offers information about the program, with tips to preparing a successful proposal, ahead of the two-month application period.

Policy Update

Reporting and Billing Updates for RHCs.  Billing staff at Rural Health Clinics should be aware of new information provided by CMS to assist with reporting requirements for the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS), effective April 1, 2016.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Webinar: Meeting Rural Health Obstetrical Needs – Monday, May 23rd at 2:30 pm ET.  This Rural Health Public Learning Collaborative will discuss the role of family medicine in obstetrical services, looking at an example in western North Carolina.  Participants will learn about financial and liability issues as well as geographic factors impacting rural hospitals decisions to provide obstetrical services.  The call will be recorded and available at

Guidance on HITECH Matching Funds – Wednesday May 25th, 2:00-3:00 pm ET.  In February, CMS and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced availability of federal funds that more aggressively support Meaningful Use Stages 2 and 3. Now Medicaid provider types such as behavioral health providers, substance abuse treatment providers, long term care providers, correctional health providers, pharmacies, laboratories, emergency service providers, and community-based providers can be supported for Health Information Exchange (HIE) or other interoperable systems, so long as such connections help an Eligible Provider demonstrate Meaningful Use. This FORHP-hosted webinar will help rural providers understand eligibility and requirements for the funds.   Sign in at; Dial: 866-818-8586  with participant passcode 54396865.

HRSA DataSpeak: Health Disparities for Children in Rural Areas – Tuesday, May 31st at 3:00 pm ET.  HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau will present recent data from national surveys and data sets on access, health status and mortality for children and youth in rural areas, along with resources and information on improving the health of these populations.

Assist With a Course on MAT –through May 31.  The Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) is seeking participants for a pilot course on Medication-Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.  Those who sign up to take the three-hour course online would be asked to give their feedback and potentially offer a rural perspective to improve instruction.

Approaching Deadlines

Grants to Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths –May 21
Comments Requested: Expanding Access to Opioid Treatment – May 21
Next Generation ACO Model – May 25
Medication Assisted Treatment – Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction
– May 31
Innovative Access and Mobility Grants Program – May 31
Comments Requested: Interoperability for EHRs – June 3
Proposals to Support Telehealth for the IHS – June 4
Become an NHSC Site – June 7
Community Connect Grants – June 17

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