Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

New 50-State Study on Non-Licensed Substance Use Disorder Workers

As barriers to treatment continue to serve as an issue to those seeking care for substance use disorder (SUD), one of those barriers is a shortage of SUD professionals. A new study discusses ways to better utilize non-licensed employees in the behavioral health and substance use disorder workforce. The study was conducted by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through its cooperative agreement with the National Organizations of State and Local Officials.

State’s SUD Loan Repayment Program Is Now Open

Applications are now being accepted for the Pennsylvania Substance Use Disorder Loan Repayment Program (SUD-LRP). It provides grant funding for educational loan repayment to healthcare practitioners where the high use of opioids is evident and where a shortage of healthcare providers exists. The deadline for applications is 11:59 pm Jan. 21, 2020. All applications must be submitted via the SUD-LRP’s web-based application through the link on the above website. Questions regarding this RFA must be submitted via email to on or before Jan. 6, 2020. No questions will be answered via phone or e-mail. Answers to all question submitted by the deadline will be posted on the website by Jan. 13, 2020 and will be considered an addendum to the RFA.

Appeals Court Rules ACA Mandate Unconstitutional

On December 18, 2019, a federal appeals court ruled the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate unconstitutional absent a penalty. However, on the issue of severability, the court remanded the case to the U.S. District Court in Texas. The lower court will determine whether if one portion of the ACA is ruled unconstitutional whether the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety. This case is one of several ACA cases that are wending their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

New Study Assesses Factors Impacting Access to Reproductive Health for Low-Income Women

Beyond the Numbers: Access to Reproductive Health Care for Low-Income Women in Five Communities is a new study released by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). In the spring and summer of 2019, KFF, working with Health Management Associates, conducted interviews with clinicians, social service providers, community-based organizations, researchers, and health care advocates, as well as a focus group with low-income women in five “medically underserved” communities, including Erie, PA. Based on the interviews and focus groups, the study addresses how national, state, and local policies, as well as cultural factors, shape access to contraceptive care, sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment, obstetrical care, and abortion services. Read more.

The Geography of the Opioid Epidemic

In December 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed paperwork authorizing the eighth extension of Pennsylvania’s emergency opioid declaration. Many key partners and stakeholders throughout Pennsylvania have worked hard to increase access to naloxone in case of an opioid related overdose. A new study by researchers at Syracuse University, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa indicates that although opioid overdose rates may be declining, the fight is still long from over. A study from the Atlantic’s CityLab focuses on how the opioid epidemic continues to impact urban and rural areas very differently. Both studies offer insightful perspectives for those working in the field.

Most U.S. Opioid Overdose Deaths Accidental, 4% Are Suicide

Accidental overdoses cause 90% of all U.S. opioid-related deaths while suicides account for far fewer of these fatalities than previously thought, a new analysis published Tuesday suggests. Rising use of heroin and illicit, highly potent synthetic opioids including fentanyl has likely contributed to the unintentional death rate, which surged nine-fold between 2000 and 2017, the researchers said. Opioid suicides also went up during that time but their share of all opioid-related deaths shrank. Read more.

CMS Says Medicare to Be Primary Payer for Opioid Treatment for Dual Eligibles

On December 17, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to states that Medicare will become the primary payer for opioid treatment programs (OTP) for dual-eligibles (those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage) effective Jan. 1, 2020, including those who currently receive treatment through Medicaid. CMS reimburses providers through bundled payment arrangements that cover medication-assisted treatment drugs, toxicology testing, and counseling. OTP providers will need to be enrolled as Medicare providers in order to be reimbursed by the program.