Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CMS Announces New Strategies for Medicare Beneficiaries to Combat Opioid Use Disorder

Effective January 1, 2019, CMS announced new strategies to further help Medicare Part D sponsors prevent and combat opioid overuse including additional safety alerts at the time of dispensing as a proactive step to engage both patients and prescribers about overdose risk and prevention.  The new policies include (1) improved safety edits when opioid prescriptions are dispensed at the pharmacy and (2) drug management programs for patients determined to be at-risk for misuse or abuse of opioids or other frequently abused drugs.

CMS has posted tip sheets and other resources to help increase awareness of the new policies among stakeholders. Three sets of outreach materials designed for physician, pharmacist, and beneficiary audiences are available on the CMS website for download. Materials can be found at:

2017 Annual HIV Surveillance Summary Report

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), Bureau of Epidemiology has issued the 2017 Annual HIV Surveillance Summary Report. DOH is also working towards launching a virtual command center to address the increase of Hepatitis A. They will be working with various departments within DOH to take a three-pronged approach of looking at homelessness, drug users, and men who have sex with men (MSM), a model that is being successfully used in regions of Philadelphia.

Responding to Unsheltered Homelessness

In any community, developing a coordinated strategy to address unsheltered homelessness is challenging. Community Supportive Housing (CSH) now offers guidance that can help ensure better outcomes. Learn about their new Community Response Resources: Tools, Policies & Templates for Addressing Unsheltered HomelessnessThese tools will assist you in identifying and leveraging local champions and strategies to tackle issues that may arise during the development and implementation of an outreach and engagement system.

Updated Security Risk Assessment Tool Available to Download

In October 2018, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), in collaboration with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), released an updated, downloadable Security Risk Assessment (SRA) tool. This updated SRA tool is easier to use and applies more broadly to the risks of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of health information. The tool is designed to help healthcare providers conduct an SRA as required by the HIPAA Security Rule and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. The tool diagrams HIPAA Security Rule safeguards and provides enhanced functionality to document how your organization implements safeguards to mitigate, or plans to mitigate, identified risks. The new SRA tool is available for Windows computers and laptops. However, the previous iPad version of the SRA tool is still available from the Apple App Store (search under “HHS SRA Tool”). Go to the website to download the updated SRA tool.

NEW Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool

Pennsylvania residents now have access to the Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool (DART), an online resource to help individuals seeking substance use disorder (SUD) treatment find appropriate, local care. This tool is fully anonymous, user friendly and can be translated into over 100 languages. DART is a centralized hub that will ask a series of questions based on a person’s age, county of residence and veteran status to assess appropriate needs and locate care. The tool will also provide potential resources that consider issues of homelessness, transportation and legal concerns. “Substance use disorders often occur when a person experiences other medical and behavioral health concerns, and they may need additional resources to live a stable, healthy life in recovery,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “Connecting people seeking treatment to comprehensive services that can help meet all of their needs from the start is critical as they work towards recovery.”

HHS Releases Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Draft Report

On December 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a draft report from the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force. Section 101 of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) (P.L. 114-198) authorized the Secretary of HHS, in cooperation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense, to convene the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force.

The Task Force is charged with providing advice and recommendations to relevant federal agencies and the general public for the development of best practices for managing chronic and acute pain and a strategy for disseminating such best practices.  The Task Force includes representatives from both federal and non-federal entities who represent diverse disciplines and views.

The Task Force held public meetings May 30 and May 31, 2018, and on September 25 and 26, 2018, voted on a list of proposed updates and recommendations. Those draft recommendations will be published in a draft report in the Federal Register on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. (It will be available for public view via online public displayTODAY, Dec. 28.) The public will have 90 days to submit comments. Details on submitting comments are outlined on the HHS website and in the Federal Register’s posting. Once the 90-day public comment period concludes, the Task Force will consider comments received and publish a report with final recommendations.