Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

ACF Report on Child Maltreatment

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) reports on rates of children who are victims of neglect or abuse using data collected from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.  In 2018, the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services recommended that federal policy include a strategy for awareness, research, and programs to address the health consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences for rural, tribal, and other at-risk populations.

NIH Assessment of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published results of a study to determine what Americans think about getting immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine.  Of a group of 1,878 participants, the greatest reluctance to get a vaccine was found among African-Americans (34%), Hispanics (29%), rural dwellers (29%), and those who had children at home (25%).

GAO Report on Rural Hospital Closures

The latest report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) addresses the effects of hospital closures on residents in rural areas. Among other objectives, the report examines how closures affected the number of health care providers, and the distance residents traveled for health care services.

Pennsylvania Awarded Funding to Prepare for Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988 Launch

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced that Pennsylvania was awarded $340,000 for strategic planning and infrastructure development in preparation for the launch of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 988 in July 2022. The 988 call number will eventually replace 1-800-273-TALK (8255) as the direct line for the Lifeline, easing access to life-saving crisis intervention services for people experiencing thoughts of suicide, their loved ones, and anyone helping someone in crisis.

“When a person is experiencing a crisis or suicidal ideation, quick response is critical to providing support. Transitioning the Lifeline to 988 will ease access for people in crisis and anyone looking to help and will save valuable time and lives,” said Secretary Miller. “This funding enables DHS and our partners to prepare for implementation and build capacity to support this eased access and bring together suicide prevention and crisis support networks so callers know that no matter what they are going through, they do not have to experience and overcome it alone.”

Funding will be used by DHS’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University to support 13 crisis call centers in preparation for 988 implementation. This will include building capacity to support increased call volume, coordinating local behavioral health, suicide prevention, and crisis support infrastructure, and building awareness of the launch of 988 as the new way to reach the Lifeline. Call centers receiving funding through this effort include:

  • Center for Community Resources, Butler, PA;
  • Keystone Health Crisis Intervention Program, Chambersburg, PA;
  • Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, Erie, PA;
  • Valley Creek Crisis Center, Exton, PA;
  • TrueNorth Wellness Services, Hanover, PA;
  • Lancaster County Crisis Intervention, Lancaster, PA;
  • Family Service Association of Bucks County, Langhorne, PA;
  • Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc., Norristown, PA;
  • The City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA;
  • Resolve Crisis Services, Pittsburgh, PA;
  • Centre Helps, State College, PA;
  • Resources for Human Development, New Perspectives Crisis Services, Stroudsburg, PA; and,
  • Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, Uniontown, PA.

The grant was awarded through Vibrant Emotional Health, a non-profit organization that helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellbeing. Vibrant, the administrators of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, supports the Lifeline and other crisis resources through telephone, text, and web-based platforms.Vibrant is supporting states preparing for the 988 transition so the Lifeline can continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.

“Access to mental health and crisis support has never been more critical for Americans,” said Kimberly Williams, President and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health.  “Vibrant is committed to providing the states and territories with some of the resources they’ll need to plan for the implementation of 988 and to support their local crisis centers. By working together, we will increase access to care, reduce the stigma around mental health and, ultimately, save lives.”

In 2019, the Wolf Administration announced a first-of-its-kind, statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop Pennsylvania’s statewide suicide prevention plan, a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania and fight the stigma associated with suicide, suicide attempts, and mental health issues so that Pennsylvanians in crisis know their lives are valuable and help is available. The Suicide Prevention Task Force is made up of several state agencies, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA who will engage members of the public, stakeholders, county task forces, individuals, and families who are impacted by suicide every year.

“988 can save lives, particularly when used in conjunction with a variety of other measures that the state is working on,” said Representative Mike Schlossberg, co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Task Force. “Democrats and Republicans are dedicated to reducing suicide in Pennsylvania, and we’re looking forward to working together to implement the recommendations of the Suicide Prevention Task Force.”

The task force released Pennsylvania’s Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan in September 2020. The plan is a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania by fighting stigma, increasing training and education on suicide and mental health, improving data collection for suicide, and supporting clinical practices and treatment to prevent suicide and help those who are struggling or in crisis know that things can and will get better. Ths task force will prioritize cross-industry partnerships to fully implement the Lifeline’s new 988 number over the coming year and a half.

“Thomas Jefferson University is pleased to continue its partnership with DHS to help Pennsylvania advance responsiveness to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” said Dr. Matt Wintersteen, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. “This new planning grant affords state leadership and community stakeholders an opportunity to further advance crisis management ahead of the transition to 988.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation or have in past, know that help is always available:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454
  • For the Mental Health Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 74174
  • Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline: 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
  • TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386
  • Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860

These free resources are available 24/7. If you are concerned about someone else’s well-being, these resources can help you be a life-saving assistance. No matter what you are going through, help is available.

For more information on Vibrant Emotional Health, visit

Pennsylvania Governor’s 2021 Agenda Prioritizes Economic Recovery, Building on Bipartisan Measures, Government Reform 

As the Pennsylvania General Assembly convenes for a new legislative session, Governor Tom Wolf outlined his agenda, in which he continues to prioritize ensuring that Pennsylvania businesses and workers have a path toward recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, building on bipartisan progress by removing barriers to help everyday Pennsylvanians succeed, and demanding accountability through government reform.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed Pennsylvania and exacerbated existing barriers for too many Pennsylvanians. It continues to have negative consequences for businesses, workers, and families throughout the commonwealth,” Gov. Wolf said. “To get Pennsylvania back on track from the disruptions the pandemic is causing, we need to make major, targeted investments to strengthen our economy, support workers and small business owners, rebuild our infrastructure, and help all Pennsylvanians build a path to financial security.”

As the governor prepares to make his annual Budget Address on February 2, he is calling for action on the following issues, which will retool our approach to break down these new obstacles and move Pennsylvania forward.

Get Pennsylvania Back on Track After the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed Pennsylvania and exacerbated existing barriers for too many.

The pandemic has uniquely interrupted the everyday lives of workers and small business owners throughout the commonwealth. Governor Wolf understands that businesses and workers need each other to thrive, and both are key to economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, so he has remained steadfast and is doubling down on his commitment to make Pennsylvania the best place to live, work, and do business.

Pennsylvania’s economic vitality is dependent on swift and targeted action to get Pennsylvanians back to work quickly in well-paying jobs in sectors that will lead our economy back to prosperity.

Immediately Allocate $145 Million to Pennsylvania Businesses  
Governor Wolf is once again calling on the General Assembly to appropriate $145 million in reserves from the Workers Compensation Security Fund to immediately allocate to businesses harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inject Billions into a Reformed Workforce Development System  
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions and layoffs to Pennsylvania’s workforce, disproportionately impacting low-wage workers, people of color, people with disabilities, and certain industries. Our economic recovery requires a strategic investment in workforce development that addresses these inequities, supports workers most significantly impacted by the pandemic, and focuses on high-quality, well-paying jobs and careers. Building on the bipartisan Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, the governor is proposing a multi-billion-dollar injection into the workforce development system to provide rapid re-employment assistance to workers impacted by the pandemic and address barriers to employment.

Invest in Public Infrastructure, Including School Buildings  
Last year, the governor proposed a plan to remediate lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials from our schools using the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). The pandemic has shown that the digital divide in our schools is also a significant concern. The governor is proposing using the RACP program to fund not just hazard remediation to keep students safe when they return to school but also efforts to close the digital divide among our students by broadening the RACP eligibility criteria to include broadband providers and schools.

Urge the Federal Government to Take Action
With a new administration, the governor is asking the federal government to increase funding for broadband expansion, flood mitigation, contaminant remediation, blight, green infrastructure, and transportation projects that will help address local road and bridge upgrades and support new capital transit projects.

Increase the Minimum Wage to $12/hour, with a path to $15/hour 
As of 2021, 29 states and the District of Columbia have increased their minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $7.25 ($15,080 per year), has not increased in more than 10 years and is keeping Pennsylvania families living in poverty. While the cost of living for Pennsylvanians is increasing, the minimum wage has remained stagnant, limiting the purchasing power of low-wage workers trying to afford necessities.

The governor is proposing to increase the state minimum wage to $12 per hour effective July 1, 2021, with annual increases of $0.50 until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on July 1, 2027.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made raising the state’s embarrassingly low minimum wage more crucial than ever as thousands of essential workers are struggling to buy food and avoid homelessness.

A living wage lets people work their way out of poverty, improves productivity and morale for millions of workers, and reduces reliance on public benefits. Raising the wage floor also provides critical workforce needs, including early childhood educators and direct care workers caring for the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Build on Bipartisan Progress
Over the past five years, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly have come together to take on big challenges by reforming pensions, taking nation-leading steps to reform our criminal justice system such as the passage of the nation’s first Clean Slate law, approving medical marijuana, and other major legislation that has modernized our commonwealth. Governor Wolf calls for building on this bipartisan progress by removing barriers for everyday Pennsylvanians to succeed.

 Reform the Criminal Justice System  
Building on efforts to reform our criminal justice system, the governor is proposing bail reform, indigent defense funding, a comprehensive expansion to our Clean Slate Law, probation reform and other policies that will build on bipartisan efforts to reform our criminal justice system.

 Build on Bipartisan Health Reform
Building on the overwhelming bipartisan support to establish the state-based health insurance exchange in Pennsylvania, increasing access to affordable care and saving money for both the state and taxpayers, Governor Wolf offers a plan that addresses comprehensive health reforms focusing on both physical and behavioral health and promoting affordability, accessibility and value in health care. The Health Value Commission, a key component to the health reform package, would be charged with keeping all payors and providers accountable for health care cost growth, to provide for the long-term affordability and sustainability of our health care system, and to promote whole-person care.

 Make it Easier for Pennsylvanians to Enter High-Demand Professions
Since developing his 2018 recommendations, Governor Wolf has worked with the legislature to significantly improve the professional licensing process in Pennsylvania, including knocking down obstacles for military spouses and those reentering the workforce after incarceration. Building on this work, the governor and the administration will continue to examine what licensure barriers still exist, particularly for veterans and new Pennsylvanians, and pursue additional reforms, so that we can better support workers and strengthen our economy.

Reduce the Corporate Net Income Tax and Close the Delaware Loophole
Governor Wolf is once again proposing to reduce the Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.99 to 9.49 percent on January 1, 2022, then continue to reduce the tax incrementally to 6.49 percent by 2026. The governor is also proposing to close the Delaware Loophole and shift to combined reporting to tax corporations as a single entity.

Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis 
In 2017, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana through bipartisan legislation. Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left behind. Legalizing adult-use cannabis has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians. The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy. Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana.

Change Harrisburg by Demanding Accountability
Governor Wolf has proposed comprehensive government reform each year of his administration. He has implemented a gift ban and demanded transparency and accountability in his administration. The governor is again introducing a comprehensive plan to reform Harrisburg and meet the challenges before us.

Reintroduce the Governor’s Government Reform Plan 
On his first day in office, the governor banned members of his administration from accepting gifts. All public officials should be held to the same standard. Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with no specific law limiting gifts to public officials. Outside the executive branch, politicians in Harrisburg can take unlimited gifts from special interests. Legislative action is needed to make the gift ban expanded and permanent, so all state elected officials are accountable to it.

The governor is calling for enacting new campaign finance laws that would place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees (PACs), and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board to restore confidence in government, and curtail the role of campaign spending in our political process.

Curb Special Interest Influence
The governor is calling for implementing broader “pay-to-play” provisions requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking state contracts.

The governor is calling for requiring public officials to submit receipts for taxpayer-funded expenses. In Governor Wolf’s administration and most of the private sector, employees pay for expenses, provide receipts and then are reimbursed. Currently, receipts are not required for all officials to be reimbursed with taxpayer dollars. The system should be reformed to cover all those serving in government, only allowing them to be reimbursed for the reasonable cost of travel, lodging, or food with an itemized receipt.

The governor’s plan would ban lobbyists from campaign work. In Pennsylvania, lobbying firms are allowed to operate campaign arms that work to elect or reelect legislators and once in office, those same firms then lobby legislators directly on behalf of their clients, creating a culture of undue access for big firms with deep pockets. This practice undermines public confidence and promotes a culture of political access that can only be bought with money, putting special interests ahead of the voters of Pennsylvania. The legislature should also more clearly define the relationships between legislators, lobbyists and political consultants.

Build on Election Reform 
Governor Wolf is calling on the legislature to allow pre-canvassing of ballots before Election Day to increase the speed and efficiency of counting ballots and reduce the window for misinformation that is inherent when ballot counting cannot begin until Election Day and there is a high demand for swift and accurate results. Following a successful election in 2020 where more Pennsylvanians voted by mail than ever before, allowing for pre-canvassing of ballots would further efforts to increase transparency and confidence in our election process.

The governor’s plan calls for same day voter registration. Currently, eligible voters have until 15 days prior to an election to register to vote, regardless of whether they register online, through the mail, or in person. With new opportunities to vote with no-excuse mail ballots, and early voting at county election offices, same-day registration would allow new voters to go to their precinct, register, and vote all in one visit. To verify their identification, eligible voters would need to provide a proof of residency and a form of identification. Funding would be allocated to assist counties in purchasing electronic poll books (EPBs), and to allow the commonwealth to build a closed network.

The governor is calling for strengthening voter intimidation restrictions. Voter intimidation can take many forms. For all voters to feel safe from intimidation when casting their ballot, legislation should be passed to prohibit firearms from being allowed in all polling locations.

Pennsylvania Human Services Releases First Racial Equity Report Promotes Diversity, Inclusion

We know more than ever that it is not enough to speak an opposition to racism and a commitment to equity. There must be action. We must be focused on advancing equity and opportunity for all people who are underrepresented and marginalized — Black, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, and other people of color, as well as those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other nonconforming identities who face bias, discrimination, and barriers.

On Jan. 21, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) released their first Racial Equity Report. The report details ongoing efforts by the department and its partners to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to be a partner in correcting systemic racism and inequities within programs and the services we provide to nearly three million Pennsylvanians.

2021 Health Insurance Marketplace Special Enrollment Period Announced

Today, in accordance with the Executive Order issued today by President Biden, the Department announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families for Marketplace coverage in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which has left millions of Americans facing uncertainty and exceptional circumstances while millions of Americans have experienced new health problems during the pandemic. This SEP will allow individuals and families in states with Marketplaces served by the platform to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage. Beginning February 15, 2021 and through May 15, 2021, these Marketplaces will operationalize functionality to make this SEP available to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) operating their own platform have the opportunity to take similar action within their states.

“The Department is committed to ensuring that we deploy every available resource during the Public Health Emergency. This Special Enrollment Period will ensure that more individuals and families have access to quality, affordable health coverage during this unprecedented time,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.

To read the executive order, visit:

To read the press release, visit:

To read the fact sheet, visit:

To see the White House fact sheet, visit: