Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Notice of Potential Changes to Eligible Area Maps for USDA Rural Development Housing Programs in Pennsylvania

USDA Rural Development is conducting a review of all areas under its jurisdiction to identify areas that no longer qualify as rural for housing programs.  The last rural area reviews were performed in 2017-2018 using 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) data.  Rural area designations are reviewed every five years. This review will utilize the 2020 United States decennial census data.

Based on the 2020 US census data and rural area guidance located in Handbook HB-1-3550, Chapter 5, the rural eligibility designation is under review for the following areas in Pennsylvania:

Currently eligible communities under review (population):

  1. Northampton and Lehigh Counties – (Bethlehem Line Adjustment)

Currently eligible communities under review (Rural in Character):

  1. Columbia County – Bloomsburg (“Rural in Character” under review.)
  2. Columbia County – Berwick (“Rural in Character” under review.)
  3. Lancaster County – Ephrata (“Rural in Character” under review.)
  4. Lancaster County – Elizabethtown (“Rural in Character” under review.)
  5. Franklin County – Chambersburg (“Rural in Character” under review.)
  6. Franklin County – Waynesboro (“Rural in Character” under review.)

Ineligible communities under review (expansion of ineligible areas):

  1. Lancaster County – Columbia (Line Adjustment)
  2. York County – Weigelstown (Line Adjustment)
  3. Allegheny County – Franklin Park (Line Adjustment)
  4. Allegheny County – Monroeville (Line Adjustment)

Ineligible communities under review (reconsideration of eligibility):

  1. Lycoming County – Williamsport (Minor Boundary Adjustments)
  2. Montgomery County – Pottstown (Minor Boundary Adjustments)

The public shall have 90 days from the date of this public notice to submit comments regarding the potential loss of eligibility for Rural Development housing programs.  Comments should be sent to  For details, or questions about specific changes, please contact the Pennsylvania Rural Development Housing Program staff at (717) 237-2186.

Struggling to Survive, the First Rural Hospitals Line Up for New Federal Lifeline

Just off the historic U.S. Route 66 in eastern New Mexico, a 10-bed hospital has for decades provided emergency care for a steady flow of people injured in car crashes and ranching accidents.

It also has served as a close-to-home option for the occasional overnight patient, usually older residents with pneumonia or heart trouble. It’s the only hospital for the more than 4,500 people living on a swath of 3,000 square miles of high plains  of Albuquerque.

“We want to be the facility that saves lives,” said Christina Campos, administrator of Guadalupe County Hospital in Santa Rosa. Its leaders have no desire to grow or be a big, profitable business, she said.

But even with a tax levy to help support the medical outpost, the facility lost more than $1 million in the past six months, Campos said: “For years, we’ve been anticipating kind of our own demise, praying that a program would come along and make us sustainable.”

Guadalupe is one of the nation’s first to start the process of converting into a Rural Emergency Hospital. The designation was created as part of the first new federal payment program launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for rural providers in 25 years. And though it is not expected to be a permanent solution to pressures facing rural America, policymakers and hospital operators alike hope it will slow the financial hemorrhage that continues to shutter those communities’ hospitals.

More than 140 rural hospitals have closed nationwide since 2010, and health policy watchers aren’t sure how many of the more than 1,700 rural facilities eligible for the new designation will apply. CMS officials said late last month that seven have already filed applications. Dr. Lee Fleisher, director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS, said how long it will take to review the applications will vary. The agency declined to provide the names or locations of hospitals seeking the designation.

Read more.

Join Us for HPV Awareness Day: A Cancer Coalition Multi-State Call to Action 

Provider recommendation for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is considered the most effective determinant of vaccine uptake compared to other interventions such as parent education. PA Cancer Coalition has partnered with stakeholders in neighboring states, MD, WV, OH, VA, DC and DE in a multi-state Call to Action to increase HPV vaccination by strong and consistent provider recommendations and initiation of HPV vaccination starting at age nine. HPV vaccination is cancer prevention! March 4 is International HPV Awareness Day; participate in this Call to Action.

Read About Recent COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutics Updates 

Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for children under six is available for ordering through the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program. However, due to limited availability nationwide, Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for children under five is not available for ordering. A new supply of Novavax is now available to order, with a cap of 100 doses per site and an expiration date of April 30. A few important reminders:

  • The monovalent formulation of COVID-19 vaccine products is authorized for the primary series only. Please order only what you anticipate using over the next 7-10 days and track your supplies to assess the need and adjust current ordering patterns to avoid stockpiling.
  • Moderna has recently expanded expiration dates for the monovalent vaccine for children under six. Always check the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna expiry dates for the products in your inventory before wasting them.
  • The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)-labeled Pfizer adult (12+) monovalent vaccine is no longer available to order. Health centers requiring the Pfizer adult (12+) monovalent vaccine should order the Biologics License Application (BLA)-labeled (COMIRNATY) product (NDC 00069-2025-10).
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a fact sheet for single-dose vials of the updated Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for people 12 years and older.
  • ASPR updated the Federal Response to COVID-19: Therapeutics Clinical Implementation Guide, a comprehensive review of available COVID-19 therapeutic treatment options and key prescribing, implementing, and administering information.

The Screening, Brief Intervention Referral to Treatment Training Has Been Released

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is pleased to offer a new virtual opportunity for training in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). If you are an administrator or clinician who is new to SBIRT or looking for a refresher course, this three-hour training on March 6 at 2:00 pm is just for you. Participants will learn how SBIRT fits into the context of health and providing whole-person, integrated and trauma-informed systems of care. Attendees will also learn the use of evidence-based screening tools for adolescents and adults to identify risk levels of alcohol and drug use, the role of brief interventions when looking to increase patient engagement, and referral, and treatment best practices for managing and supporting people with substance use disorders.

Read About the Disappointing Report Card for Primary Care

The first report card on the state of the nation’s primary health care was released last week, and it’s nothing to brag about. The report comes in response to a 2021 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which called for a scorecard to be developed to monitor — and improve — America’s primary care. Funded by the Milbank Memorial Fund and the Physicians Foundation, two nonprofits working on improving health care, it’s designed to offer baseline data for the federal government and state governments in the financing, access, workforce development, and research. Read more.

A New Report Released About Closing the Primary Care Gap

The National Association of Community Health Center (NACHC) has released a report finding that more than 100 million Americans face barriers to accessing primary care. A trend of rural hospital closures and a worsening shortage of primary care providers are driving the crisis, leaving one-third of the U.S. population vulnerable to public health threats and untreated chronic diseases. The report describes America’s medically disenfranchised population and how, with expanded federal resources, Community Health Centers can begin to address gaps in primary care. U.S. Today covers the report.

HRSA Offers Health Center Funding Opportunity to Improve Care for the Kids You Serve

The Biden administration has issued a $30 million Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to enhance early childhood development services and improve outcomes for children served by Community Health Centers. The goal of the funding is to increase the number of infants and young children served by health centers who receive age-appropriate developmental screenings and prompt follow-up services for conditions that could affect their development. A new brief from the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative outlines the objectives of the FOA, documents the essential role of Community Health Centers in caring for young children in vulnerable communities and at risk for developmental delay, and explores the opportunities to effectively support child health and development in health centers.

Pennsylvania is Set to Continue Paying Parents as Home Health Aides

While Pennsylvania initially intended to end its years-long practice of paying parents of children with complex healthcare needs who provide home health aide care to their own children, that decision has changed. When it was discovered that Pennsylvania planned to end the program, advocates, families, and other stakeholders urged the state to continue the program considering the continued and increasing direct care worker shortage. In response, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) sought and received federal approval to continue the program after the public health emergency ends. DHS will be sending notices to families letting them know the program will continue as well as providing additional details on how the program will operate.

DEA Proposes to Make Telemedicine Flexibilities Permanent

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last week that it is proposing rules to make permanent many flexibilities for telemedicine that were established amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with certain safeguards. The DEA said in a release that the rule will give patients access to virtual therapies beyond the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which is scheduled to conclude in May. The rules would include certain safeguards for telemedicine consultations from a medical provider who has not conducted an in-person evaluation of a patient and that results in the provider prescribing the patient a controlled medicine. They would allow medical providers to prescribe a 30-day supply of Schedule III and Schedule IV non-narcotic controlled drugs, which are the least likely to result in drug abuse, or a 30-day supply of buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder without an in-person evaluation or referral, according to the release. The DEA added that the rules would not affect telemedicine consultations that do not involve prescribing controlled medications or those where the provider has conducted an in-person examination of the patient. The updates would also not affect telemedicine consultations and prescriptions from a provider that a patient has been referred to if the referring provider has conducted an in-person examination.