Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

HHS Introduces Roadmap for Behavioral Health

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) introduced the Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration, to advance the White House Strategy to Address our National Mental Health Crisis announced earlier this year. The HHS paper explains policy and programs that will build three pillars of the national strategy: 1) Strengthen System Capacity by developing a diverse workforce; 2) Connect Americans to Care through health financing; and 3) Support Americans by Creating Healthy Environments with investments in behavioral health, upstream prevention, and recovery.  The Roadmap includes rural communities as part of its cross-cutting equity priority, but does not cover all of the behavioral health initiatives across the Department; important efforts already underway include the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy and the new three-digit 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

NIH has released a new Funding Opportunity

NIH has released a new Funding Opportunity for research into the implementation of effective non-opioid interventions for chronic pain management in rural and remote populations. The NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative to speed scientific solutions to the national opioid public health crisis, is intending to commit $5.7M in FY2023 to this effort, which will result in five to six awards. The FOA requires partnerships with health care systems or organizations and community partners and encourages links to key rural partners such as State Offices of Rural Health, State Rural Health Associations, and Area Health Education Centers.

FORHP Introduces New Center to Assist Rural Emergency Hospitals

 The nonprofit Rural Health Redesign Center has been tapped to provide technical assistance to hospitals through the process of becoming newly designated Rural Emergency Hospitals (REH).  The REH is a federal policy response to the growing number of rural hospital closures and it allows Critical Access Hospitals and certain hospitals of no more than 50 beds to convert to a facility with essential services – emergency department, observation care, and additional outpatient services.  The REH Technical Assistance Center announced today will help these transitioning hospitals through the conversion process.  More resources and information will be available in the coming weeks and months but the Center is ready to answer questions today. On Wednesday, October 12 at 3:00 pm ET FORHP will host a webinar to explain the Rural Emergency Hospital, the new Technical Assistance Center, and other FORHP-funded activities to support hospitals exploring the REH option.

PA’s Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Program Periodicity Schedule, Updated Medical Assistance Bulletin

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services issued an annual update Medical Assistance Bulletin regarding the EPSDT Program Periodicity Schedule and Coding Matrix. There are several content updates including:

  • Psychosocial/Behavioral Assessment has been updated to “Behavioral/Social/Emotional Screening” (annually from newborn to 21 years) to align with AAP policy, the ACOG Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommendations, and the AACAP guidelines.
  • Risk assessment for hepatitis B virus infection has been added to occur once between the ages of newborn and 21 years, with appropriate action to follow, if positive.
  • Risk assessment for sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death has been added to occur once between the ages of 11 and 21 years, with appropriate action to follow, if positive.

There are also several footnote updates. For full details click here. Additionally, a Medical Assistance Bulletin was issued regarding vaccine counseling-only visits for beneficiaries under 21. This bulletin announced the Medical Assistance program will cover vaccine counseling visits for beneficiaries under age 21 for vaccines provided through the EPSDT benefit when no vaccines are administered. For details click here.

Here’s a Great Resource for Your Telehealth Needs

The HRSA-funded Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center (MATRC) offers assistance and consultation (FREE up to ten hours) on a variety of issues including, but not limited to, reimbursement, policies, technology, operations, approaches to broadband access, and more. Recognizing that telehealth has evolved so very rapidly over the last few years out of need and that many programs are looking to plan, improve, expand, and decide to what degree telehealth services will continue, or introduce telehealth to training/education experiences, the MATRC may be able to help. The MATRC also manages a Center of Excellence for Telebehavioralhealth. MATRC’s director is well-respected nationally and feedback on MATRC’s services has been excellent. Visit the MATRC website for more information, including how to request services, or contact Anita Browning, MATRC Outreach Specialist.

A New Report Reveals Best Practices to Retain MAs and DAs

Perspectives from the Field: Retaining Medical Assistants and Dental Assistants is a newly released publication prepared by Ann Loeffler, MSPH, PMP, for the STAR² Center following a series of focus groups exploring Medical Assistant and Dental Assistant attrition in health centers. The findings from these focus groups have been compiled to highlight factors contributing to this attrition and strategies shared by participants to mitigate these factors and retain MAs and DAs in the workforce. Click here to access this new publication!