Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CMS Issues Bulletins on Behavioral Health and School-Based Health Services in Medicaid

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a pair of informational bulletins to inform states about their larger efforts to strengthen access to comprehensive health care for children on Medicaid. They are as follows:

Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Agency Issues Informational Bulletin on Confidentiality of SUD Records

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) issued Informational Bulletin 02-22 to clarify Act 33 of 2022 – Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Records. Act 33, signed into law on July 7, 2022, makes Pennsylvania’s SUD confidentiality requirements consistent with federal law. Federally-assisted programs for the diagnosis, referral, or treatment of SUD are now covered by the federal regulations at 42 CFR Part 2. Under Act 33, federal confidentiality provisions apply to those programs and disclosures shall be made as permitted by federal law. Act 33 prohibits DDAP from issuing or enforcing a regulation that restricts the disclosure of information permitted by Act 33.

DHS Reports a SNAP Phishing Scam

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) reports some consumers may be receiving phishing scam texts with claims of approval for $1,000 in benefits requiring recipients to click on a link. DHS does not send messages from 1-833-648-1964 asking for details about benefits, requests for personal information, or links to unofficial sites. DHS issued a warning to consumers that if they receive unsolicited or random calls or text messages, it is most likely a scam. As a reminder, consumers should not respond and delete the message, so they do not get caught in identity theft.

Pennsylvania Department Of Aging Launches Investigative Unit to Help Combat Financial Exploitation of Older Adults

Continuing its work to address and prevent one of the fastest-growing forms of elder abuse, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging announced the formation of a dedicated investigative unit to support Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) in probing complex financial exploitation cases and obtaining justice for older Pennsylvanians. The Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is a four-person unit consisting of an analyst/supervisor, two analysts, and an attorney to assist the aging network for the next two years. Click here to learn more.

HHS Announces Over $20 Million in Awards to Implement Federal Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis; Reduce Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health

Funding Supports Community-based Doulas, Rural Obstetric Care, New State Task Forces to Tackle Maternal Health Disparities, and Investments in Infant Health Equity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced investments of over $20 million to improve maternal and infant health and implement the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis – PDF. Funding aims to help reduce disparities in maternal and birth outcomes, expand and diversify the workforce caring for pregnant and postpartum individuals, increase access to obstetrics care in rural communities, and support states in tackling inequities in maternal and infant health.

“Today, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause in this country than White women. That has to change,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “To make meaningful change, we need to center our work on the individuals and families we are serving, and that is what today’s investments aim to do. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to prioritizing equity and reducing the unacceptable disparities in maternal and infant health. Through these awards, we are taking additional action to implement the Blueprint that the President and Vice President have laid out for driving impactful solutions and providing our nation’s families with the support and resources they need to lead healthy lives.”

About 700 people die each year during pregnancy or in the year after. Thousands of women each year have unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery with serious short- or long-term health consequences. Rural populations tend to have worse maternal health outcomes than individuals living in urban areas, and there are disparities experienced by racial and ethnic groups.

HRSA awards include:

  • Supporting State-led Maternal Health Innovation: HRSA is awarding $9 million to 9 grantees through its State Maternal Health Innovation Program to create state-led maternal health task forces bringing the voices of key leaders and pregnant and postpartum individuals together and using state-specific maternal health data to develop and use innovative approaches to address the most pressing maternal health needs and address disparities in health outcomes. Innovations cover four categories: provision of direct clinical care, workforce training, maternal health data enhancements, and community engagement.
  • Improving Maternal Care in Rural Communities: HRSA is awarding approximately $4 million to 4 awardees through its Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program to improve maternal care in rural communities by building care networks that coordinate care needs for pregnant individuals; leveraging telehealth and specialty care to better support care needs; and improving financial sustainability of these services in rural communities.  Awardees will work to address unmet needs, which may include underlying health risks, health disparities, and other inequities.
  • Increasing Access to Community-based Doulas: HRSA is awarding approximately $3 million to 19 Healthy Start programs to increase the availability of doula services in the communities they serve.  The Healthy Start program supports community-based strategies to reduce disparities in infant mortality and improve perinatal outcomes for pregnant and postpartum individuals and their children in areas most affected by infant and maternal mortality. This funding will cover training and compensation for doulas, who provide services to women during pregnancy, birth, and post-partum.
  • Addressing Infant Mortality: HRSA is awarding $4.5 million to 9 grantees through its Catalyst for Infant Health Equity Program to reduce infant mortality disparities. These funds will support action plans that focus on improving community systems and services that influence health outcomes. Activities include coordination of services to address housing and housing stability management; workforce development and training to address implicit bias; and education and outreach to help community members support maternal and infant health.

HHS is committed to supporting safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminating pregnancy-related health disparities, and improving health outcomes for parents and infants across our country.   As part of this work, HRSA also continues to conduct analysis of the workforce needs to address these critical issues.

Learn more about HHS’s efforts to strengthen maternal health.

CMS Seeks Comments on Medicaid & CHIP Quality Reporting Proposals 

 Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule to promote consistent use of nationally standardized quality measures in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to help identify gaps and health disparities among the millions of people enrolled in these programs. This rule proposes requirements for mandatory annual state reporting of three different quality measure sets: the Core Set of Children’s Health Care Quality Measures for Medicaid and CHIP; the behavioral health measures on the Core Set of Adult Health Care Quality Measures for Medicaid; and the Core Sets of Health Home Quality Measures for Medicaid. CMS is proposing that annual reporting guidance will include identification of the populations for which States must report the measures identified by the Secretary of HHS, including, but not limited to beneficiaries receiving services through Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics. CMS is also proposing that measures must be stratified by various elements including rural/urban status.

Comments are due by October 21.

Key Findings with Spatial Access to Hospital-based Obstetric Units in Minoritized Racial/Ethnic Areas

Among key findings from the Rural and Minority Health Research Center: In rural ZIP code tabulation areas (ZCTA) with high proportions of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) residents, 80% had no hospital-based obstetric unit within 15 miles, and approximately one-third of rural ZCTAs with highly represented Hispanic/Latino populations have no obstetric care within 30 miles.  Results suggest that Black-White maternal health disparities might be independent of distances to a hospital obstetric unit at the community level and instead associated with the social determinants of health.

Assessing Technology Readiness for HIV-Related Mental Health/Substance Use Services

The study explored opportunities for enhanced screening using telehealth and electronic patient-reported outcomes at five HRSA-funded Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clinics in Alabama – one of seven mostly rural states prioritized for the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative. While there were concerns among survey respondents about the lack of in-person interaction, the study revealed opportunities to expand technology use in rural areas.