Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

HHS Announces $1.8 Billion in New Funding to States to Combat Opioid Crisis

On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $1.8 billion in funding to states to continue the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis by expanding access to treatment and supporting near real-time data on the drug overdose crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced more than $900 million in new funding for a three-year cooperative agreement with states, territories, and localities to advance the understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and to scale-up prevention and response activities, releasing $301 million for the first year.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded approximately $932 million to all 50 states as part of its State Opioid Response grants. By the end of 2019, HHS will have awarded more than $9 billion in grants to states and local communities to help increase access to treatment and prevention services since the start of the Trump administration.

The full CDC state by state data table is here

The full SAMHSA state by state table is here

Study Ranks Pennsylvania 24th in the Nation for Worker-friendly Policies

A recent report by the anti-poverty group Oxfam America ranked all 50 states based on a variety of metrics, from whether workers can earn a livable wage, its friendliness to organized labor, and the support services it offers to workers. Based on those metrics, Pennsylvania finished 24th in the nation, finishing behind five of the Keystone State’s six neighbors.

“While the U.S. economy is thriving for some, it is leaving millions of working families behind. As the federal government has refused to advance labor laws that would help, most states have stepped up to make vital improvements in wages and conditions,” the study’s authors wrote.

Here’s how Pennsylvania’s neighboring states finished overall: Delaware (16), Maryland (13), New Jersey (12); New York (13), Ohio (20) and West Virginia (25).  The full report can be accessed here

CMS Revamps Medicare Plan Finder

During the week of August 26, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it launched a redesigned Medicare Plan Finder that aims to make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to compare their coverage options. CMS said the update to the Medicare Plan Finder is the first in a decade and is part of the agency’s eMedicare initiative, “which expands and improves on current Medicare consumer service options.”

Broadband Research Base

The National Data Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has created a searchable collection of reports, studies and journal articles that address the impact of broadband and digital inclusion on community and individual well-being.  Click here to access the resource.

New Report Offers State-Level Analysis of Primary Care Investment

The Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC) 2019 Executive Report provides quantitative data and analysis of primary care spend at the state and payer levels, as well as a window into the association between primary care spend and key patient outcomes. The report shows:

  • Primary care investment as a percentage of total health care expenditures was low between 2011 and 2016, and it varied considerably across states and across payers
  • An association between more primary care investment and better patient outcomes
  • A description of legislative/regulatory efforts in 10 states to measure and report on primary care spend and to shift more resources into primary care

Read more.

Rural Guide to Improving Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Care (COPD)

A policy brief issued last year by the University of Minnesota reported that while the COPD prevalence rate is higher for individuals living in rural areas,  Critical Access Hospitals are less likely to employ any respiratory therapists.  With support from HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, the National Rural Health Resource Center created this guide to help rural hospitals and clinics identify areas for improvement with diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care of COPD patients. The guide is developed as part of the COPD National Action Plan, with the goal of developing resources for improving the lives of patients living with COPD in rural communities.  Click here to access the full brief.

Comments Requested:  Proposed Changes to Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records

The Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulations (42 CFR Part 2), aka “Part 2,” protect patient privacy when receiving substance use disorder treatment.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has proposed changes to these rules based on stakeholder feedback and to facilitate coordination of care.  The proposals include allowing non-opioid treatment program providers to become eligible to get information from prescription drug monitoring programs and changing the requirements for patient consent.   See this HHS Fact Sheet for a summary of the proposals and RHIhub for more information on substance use disorder treatment in rural areas.  Comments are due on October 25, 2019.

Improving the Reach and Quality of Cancer Care in Rural Populations

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health recently announced a new study aimed at improving the quality of cancer care in rural areas among low-income and underserved populations. The request for applications that will go out at the end of September encourages two areas of study: 1) observational research that includes pilot testing of interventions to understand and address predictors of cancer; and 2) intervention research to address known predictors. Specifically, the focus for observational studies (with pilot testing) is understanding and addressing the predictive and/or mediating role of social determinants of health, barriers to care, and treatment; and the focus for interventional research is on addressing quality of care related to cancer diagnosis, treatment and/or survivorship. Most existing cancer control interventions are not ready for direct implementation and dissemination in low-income rural areas, so proposals should seek to develop, adapt, and/or implement, and test interventions.  Earlier this year, NCI launched The Cancer Information Service, an online resource for answers to difficult questions, treatment center locations, and help finding clinical trials among other topics.   Click here for the full announcement.