Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Responding to Human Trafficking: Developing Infrastructure and Multisystem Approaches

The risk of human trafficking is higher for children and youth in foster care, and the child welfare field has increased its efforts to develop an effective response. With funding from the Children’s Bureau, grantees across the nation have been developing programs to address human trafficking that leverage available resources and form partnerships in local communities.

Read these lessons learned briefs to see what grantees have learned during their journey to address various human trafficking issues, and help your community take advantage of their findings to keep children safe and thriving.

  • Human Trafficking: Coordinating Resources
    Bringing together specialized resources to better serve victims of human trafficking can have unique challenges. Grantees are building service capacity in their communities by establishing awareness, building multidisciplinary teams, and making sure the appropriate information gets shared between agencies and partners.
  • Human Trafficking: Working with Faith Based Groups
    Learn about the partnerships grantees formed with faith-based organizations and the benefits and challenges they encountered. Using real-life examples, this publication shows how child welfare agencies can identify service gaps, find community resources that can help, and build successful partnerships.
  • Human Trafficking: Developing Housing Options
    Securing safe and appropriate housing for victims of human trafficking is a challenge in many areas. Read how agencies identified appropriate housing options, took advantage of the resources they had—such as existing foster parents—to fill gaps, and supported the providers in their area.

Stay connected to quarterly grantee updates by subscribing to The Grantee Connection.

Listen to how the Miami CARES Project brings together more than 10 government and community agencies within Miami-Dade (FL) County to forge a collaborative, systematic approach to identifying minors who are, or are at risk of becoming, victims of human trafficking.

Your feedback is important. Be sure to let us know how we’re doing by taking our survey! For more information, visit our website, email us at, or call us toll-free at 1.800.394.3366.


Comments Requested: Current Use of Telemental Health for Suicide Prevention in Emergency Department Settings

This request for information (RFI) jointly issued by several Federal offices, including Health and Human Services’ National Institutes for Health, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense, seeks information about the use of telehealth in hospital emergency medical care settings to facilitate the care of individuals with suicide risk.  Topics of interest include what telehealth services are being used, what contributed to the selection and implementation of those services, what are the characteristics of the emergency department (i.e. urban/rural setting), and approaches used to identify suicide risk of patients in the emergency department.  In 2015, suicide death rates in rural counties were higher than the rates in larger metropolitan counties.   Comments are due on August 29, 2019. More information is available here.

A Quarter of the World’s Population Faces Water Crises 

Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: the prospect of running out of water. From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, the World Resources Institute said in a report published August 6, 2019. Read more.


Sigounas Steps Down, Engels Steps Up into HRSA Administrator Role 

Thomas Engels was named Acting Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on August 1, 2019 and will oversee the execution of HRSA’s $11.7 billion annual budget, including the Health Center Program, the National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and more. Before joining HRSA six months ago as Principal Deputy Administrator, Mr. Engels was Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services from 2015 to 2019. He was an active member of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse and also chaired the Governor’s Human Resources Shared Services Executive Committee. Read more. Mr. Engel’s predecessor, Dr. George Sigounas, has been reassigned to an advisor role in the office of the HHS Secretary.

Pennsylvania Launches Helpline for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren 

The Pennsylvania Departments of Human Services and Aging have announced a helpline for families in kinship care situations, including grandparents raising their grandchildren because of the opioid crisis. The helpline is staffed by Kinship Navigators – compassionate, knowledgeable social service professionals prepared to help families locate, understand, and access resources that may be able to help them. Kinship Navigators will connect grandparents and other relatives who are raising children with resources such as health, financial and legal services, support groups, training, and parenting advice. They will help families locate physical or behavioral health services, enroll the child in school, find support groups and other services designed to help caregivers. They will also be available to help families apply for federal, state, and local benefits such as Social Security, public assistance or CHIP. In addition, a website of resources is set to launch later this year. KinConnector can be reached by calling 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111) Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm and Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.

CDC: Naloxone Prescriptions Up but Still Fall Short in Rural Areas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined trends and characteristics of prescriptions for naloxone, a drug that can help prevent overdose deaths by reversing the effects of opioids.  By analyzing data from retail pharmacies across the U.S., the CDC found that the number of naloxone prescriptions increased substantially from 2012 to 2018 with an increase of 106 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.  The CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain recommends prescribing naloxone for patients who are at high risk for overdose, but the new research found that only one naloxone prescription was dispensed for every 69 high-dose opioid prescriptions – with the lowest rate in rural counties.  Last week, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a brief, Urban-Rural Differences in Drug Overdose Death Rates, showing rates were higher in urban areas for overdose deaths involving heroin, synthetic opioids, and cocaine, but higher in rural for natural and semisynthetic opioids, and psychostimulants with abuse potential.   Click here to access the full report.

HRSA Awards Over $111 Million to 96 Organizations to Combat Opioid Epidemic in Rural Communities

On August 8, 2019, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy announced awards of over $111 million to 96 rural organizations across 37 states as part of its multi-year Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) initiative.  These funds, which also include support for an evaluation of the initiative, will strengthen rural communities’ capacity to provide needed substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services and build the evidence base for interventions that are effective in rural settings.

The full announcement can be accessed here.

Bringing Together Young And Old To Ease The Isolation Of Rural Life

Priscilla Bogema lives in a rural town called McGregor, Minn., in a part of the state that has more trees and lakes than people.  She came here about 20 years ago seeking solitude during a major crisis in her life. She had just gotten divorced and was dealing with some health problems. “So I came to a place where nobody could see me,” she says.

Now, Bogema is in her 60s, frail and mostly confined to her house. Her arthritis and other health problems have limited her mobility. She struggles with the upkeep of her home and yard. She drives into town once a week for groceries and a movie with other seniors. But she doesn’t have close friends she sees regularly and her children and grandchildren only visit once every few months.

The solitude she once sought is no longer as comforting. “It can get lonely, very lonely,” she says.

According to a recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Bogema is one of about 2.5 million rural residents (about 7% of the total rural population) who say they have no friends or family nearby to rely on. An additional 14 million (about 39%) say they only have a few people. Like Bogema, many feel isolated.

McGregor, Minn., is one of 18 communities in north-eastern part of the state that is participating in a program that addresses loneliness and social isolation by connecting the young with the old.

Meredith Rizzo/NPR

People in rural areas report “feeling lonely or left out,” says Carrie Henning-Smith, the deputy director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center and one of the authors of a recent study on rural isolation, despite the fact that rural communities often have stronger social networks than urban ones. She notes that many communities have become more socially isolated in recent years as rural economies have declined and young people moved away.

Social isolation is increasingly recognized as a public health issue. Studies show that isolation and loneliness puts people at a higher risk of long term physical and mental health problems, including premature mortality. And Henning-Smith’s preliminary research suggests that in rural areas, isolation can reduce people’s ability to meet daily needs, like access to health care and food.

A group in northeastern Minnesota is tackling this problem in a novel way: They’re trying to reconnect a fragmented social fabric by bringing together generations to support each other — kids and the elderly.

McGregor is one of 18 rural communities running the program, called AGE to age. It connects more than 4,000 youth with almost 2,500 older adults annually.

The initiative is not just geared to help the elderly — the support runs both ways. It also helps children and young people in these communities feel more supported, giving them work experience and mentors. Children and seniors work on projects together — the kind of activity varies from community to community, and can range anywhere from participating in a reading club, to building and maintaining a community garden, to helping local food pantries, to working on art projects. Along the way, they develop meaningful relationships that can last beyond the program.

The full article can be accessed here.

Pennsylvania Governor’s New Executive Order Focuses on the Most Vulnerable  

During the week of July 29, 2019, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf by executive order announced that an overhaul of the state services and systems to protect the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians will begin. Governor Wolf’s “Protection of Vulnerable Populations” Executive Order establishes an Office of Advocacy and Reform, maintained by the governor’s office with an executive director, creates a new Child Advocate position and integrates the Long-term Care Ombudsman. It also establishes a Council on Reform, with 25 voting members appointed by Gov. Wolf to support this effort by looking at protecting vulnerable populations from three perspectives: prevention and diversion, protection and intervention, and justice and support. Both the Council on Reform and the Office of Advocacy and Reform will identify reforms needed for Pennsylvania to better protect and support individuals relying upon services and assistance from the commonwealth.  The governor also shared his intent to pursue extensive regulatory and legislative actions.