Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Warns of Heightened Fall Wildfire Dangers

With hunting and other outdoors activities increasing at a time when woodlands and brush can become tinder dry in just a few days, the Wolf Administration is urging all residents to guard against increased wildfire dangers in Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of forestlands.

State officials noted a sustained dry period over much of the state comes at a time when wildfire dangers normally are high, and critical conditions can develop almost overnight in many forested areas of Pennsylvania.

“With rainfall varying greatly across the commonwealth, a dry windy span of just a few days quickly can make wildfires a very real threat,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Amid the pandemic we know so many are seeking outdoors pursuits. Hunting soon will be popular and fall foliage is a joy to behold, but when the leaves begin dropping and drying, they become added fuel for woodland fires.”

“Amid these conditions, it takes only a careless moment to ignite a devastating wildfires. We know debris burning is leading cause of wildfires throughout the state and more than 95 percent of Pennsylvania wildfires are caused by people,” Dunn said.

“While most Pennsylvanians are used to wildfires being confined to relatively far off places, these catastrophic events pose an escalating risk to communities throughout the commonwealth,” said State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego.  “Increasingly, our state is being affected by weather patterns that turn fields and forests into accidents waiting to happen.”

The wildfire warning comes amid sparse rainfall and drying conditions, and as drought advisories are widening in Pennsylvania.

DCNR is responsible for administering a grant program paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. This program has awarded more than $14.5 million since it began in 1982. In 2019, more than $617,800 was awarded to 133 volunteer fire companies. Both Dunn and Trego encourage eligible departments to learn more about this important program for future grant opportunities.

With several deer and small-game hunting seasons opening in the coming weeks, both Dunn and Trego urged hunters and other woodlands visitors to be especially careful with smoking and fires amid dry vegetation.

Dunn noted the need to guard against wildfires increases each year as more development encroaches on heavily wooded tracts. Homeowners always should be diligent when burning trash and debris, she said.

Property owners should always consider the weather and conditions when burning outdoors. If it’s windy or dry, burning should be postponed until conditions change. A hose, rake, and shovel should be handy when burning outdoors, and any burnable materials cleared within 10 feet of a fire.

The Bureau of Forestry is working through state agencies and local fire companies to educate Pennsylvania citizens on procedures to make their homes in forest environments safer from wildfires. Information can be obtained from the Bureau of Forestry, county Emergency Management Office, or the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.

Details on wildfire prevention can be obtained at local forest districts and the Bureau of Forestry also maintains information on county burn bans in effect.

HHS Awards over $35 million to Increase Access to High Quality Health Care in Rural Communities

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded over $35 million to more than 50 rural organizations across 33 states as part of a sustained federal effort to increase access to high quality care in rural communities.  The awards reflect investments in key areas including telehealth, health workforce training, health research, technical assistance for vulnerable rural hospitals and HIV care and treatment.

“President Trump has made it a priority to strengthen rural health infrastructure and promote the health of rural Americans,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “As someone who grew up in rural America and with rural healthcare providers in my family, I know the challenges they face, and I know there’s a need for transformation. These awards are in line with the actions the President called for in his Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access and are part of our overall effort to improve rural access to care in sustainable and innovative ways.”

The awards through HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) include:

  • $8.8 million awarded to 30 organizations across 23 states as part of the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP). Awardees will promote rural tele-emergency services by enhancing emergency care consults from health care providers via telehealth through increased access and training.
  • Nearly $2 million to support the Telehealth Focused Rural Health Research Center (TF RHRC) Program. TF RHRC awardees will carry out a comprehensive evaluation of nationwide telehealth investments in rural areas and populations, and conduct research to expand the evidence base for rural telehealth services.
  • Nearly $1 million to establish the new Rural Telementoring Training Center (RTTC). The RTTC will train academic medical centers and other centers of excellence to create technology-enabled telementoring learning programs to disseminate best practice specialty care to primary care providers in rural and underserved areas.
  • Over $8 million to support the Rural Residency Planning and Development (RRPD) Program across 10 states. Each awardee will focus on strengthening its health care workforce through the development of newly accredited, sustainable rural residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry.
  • Nearly $5 million to support the Rural Health Research Center (RHRC) Program. Each awardee will conduct rural research to assist providers and policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to better understand problems faced by rural communities. The research will inform population health improvement efforts, including health care access and delivery.
  • $10 million to support vulnerable hospitals in rural communities through the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) Program. This funding will provide specialized technical assistance to 30 hospitals across 252 counties and parishes served by the Delta Regional Authority, which often have the highest number of hospital closures or hospitals in financial distress.
  • Over $680,000 through the Rural HIV/AIDS Planning Program to develop an integrated rural network for HIV care and treatment in four out of the seven states with the heaviest rural HIV burden. Awardees will implement the Administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative to target gaps and challenges that stand in the way of early HIV diagnosis and treatment.

“The HRSA programs highlighted today put in practice HHS’ broader vision and plan for transforming the nation’s rural health care system so that it can better support the unique needs of rural communities,” said HRSA Administrator Tom Engels. “Through these HRSA programs and by working hand in hand with our rural partners across the nation, we can improve access, quality and outcomes for rural communities.”

You can view the full press release here

For a list of today’s award recipients, visit:

To learn about the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, visit:

New Frequently Asked Questions on EMTALA

CMS issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) clarifying requirements and considerations for hospitals and other providers related to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FAQs address questions around patient presentation to the emergency department, EMTALA applicability across facility types, qualified medical professionals, medical screening exams, patient transfer and stabilization, telehealth, and other topics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Toolkit for Emotional Coping for Healthcare Staff (TECHS): Putting it into Practice

Listen to a webinar introducing a toolkit for the benefit of frontline healthcare workers and psychosocial professionals helping to support healthcare workers who may be experiencing traumatic stress. Adapted from an intervention used for parents of children with cancer. Transcript available by clicking the three dots above the Subscribe button.  Sponsoring organization: Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress

Listen here.

Behavioral Health in Rural America: Challenges and Opportunities

Behavioral Health In Rural America: Challenges and Opportunities

Principal authors: John Gale, MS; Jaclyn Janis, BSN, RN, MPH; Andrew Coburn, PhD; Hannah Rochford, MPH

Prepared by the RUPRI Health Panel: Keith Mueller, PhD; Andrew Coburn, PhD; Alana Knudson, PhD; Jennifer Lundblad, PhD, MBA; Timothy McBride, PhD

The prevelence mental health and substance use diagnoses and unmet treatment needs are not equally distributed, with rural residence being one factor associated with these differences. Moreover, the rural context has proven challenging for ensuring the availability of and access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery services in rural areas. This paper reviews the prevalence of behavioral health disorders in rural populations, rural access to behavioral health services, promising program and policy strategies targeted to improving rural BH systems, and opportunities for policy and system changes to improve rural BH systems and outcomes.

Click to download a copy: Behavioral Health In Rural America: Challenges and Opportunities – Full document