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Top news stories from the past 60 days. For more, see news by topic or news by state.

SAMHSA Releases Guides to Help Women Navigate Opioid Use Disorder Treatment While Pregnant
Sep 20, 2018 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing four Healthy Pregnancy: Opioids in Pregnancy fact sheets designed to help women who have opioid use disorders and who are also pregnant or are mothers of infants. These fact sheets explain the process for treating opioid use disorder and neonatal abstinence syndrome and provide information to help them seek care and to manage pregnancy and treatment.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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Surgeon General Releases Spotlight on Opioids
Sep 20, 2018 - Provides an update on the opioid addiction and statistics on the prevalence of substance misuse, opioid misuse, opioid use disorder (OUD), and overdoses. Includes discussion on work being done in rural areas to develop and implement evidence-based OUD prevention and treatment interventions.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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CMS: Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Regulatory Provisions to Promote Program Efficiency, Transparency, and Burden Reduction Federal Register
Sep 20, 2018 - Notice of proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reform Medicare regulations that have been identified as unnecessary, obsolete, or excessively burdensome on healthcare providers and suppliers, allowing them to devote more time to delivering high quality patient care. Discusses the impact on rural providers and facilities throughout. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by November 19, 2018.
Source: Federal Register
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HHS Awards Over $1 Billion to Combat the Opioid Crisis
Sep 19, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) has awarded over $1 billion in support of HHS's five-point opioid strategy to address the opioid crisis, including $25.5 million for rural organizations. Discusses newly released data suggesting HHS's efforts in the opioid crisis are seeing progress at the national level.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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Fixing What Ails You: Rural County to Reopen Hospital
Sep 19, 2018 - A hospital in Lee County, Virginia is set to reopen their local hospital after closing five years ago. Highlights the long-term efforts to maintain the building during the closure and community and state support to to bring services back to the area.
Source: National Association of Counties
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Senate Passes Sweeping Legislation to Combat Opioid Epidemic
Sep 17, 2018 - Reports on a bipartisan measure, the Senate's Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (OCRA), passed on September 17, 2018 that directs funding to federal agencies to expand and establish programs to provide prevention, treatment, and help with recovery from opioid addiction.
Source: NBC News
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I Hired a Community Health Worker and Now We Work Miracles
Sep 17, 2018 - Post from the American Academy of Family Physician's Fresh Perspectives blog, which features posts from doctors new to practice. Highlights the impact hiring a Community Health Worker in a small town practice has had on improving patients' health and removing barriers to accessing care.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians, Fresh Perspectives
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USDA Partners to Improve Water and Wastewater Infrastructure for More than 442,000 Rural Americans Across 42 States
Sep 17, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the investment of $392 million through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to help rebuild and improve rural water and wastewater infrastructure in 42 states. This funding will support 120 projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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NQF Releases Report to Improve Access and Health Needs of Rural Communities
Sep 17, 2018 - Press release announcing that the National Quality Forum (NQF) has released a report identifying a core set of best available quality measures that would address key challenges rural residents and providers face and which includes recommendations that address the availability, accessibility, and affordability of care. This report, A Core Set of Rural-Relevant Measures, is available online.
Source: National Quality Forum
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About the Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women and New Moms Challenge
Sep 14, 2018 - Announcement of the Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women and New Moms Challenge, which launches on September 19, 2018. This challenge will award $375,000 in prizes to support tech innovations to improve access to quality healthcare for pregnant women with opioid use disorders and their families, especially those in rural and geographically isolated areas.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health
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As Hurricane Florence Approaches, the Rural Carolinas Brace For Impact
Sep 12, 2018 - Details concerns about emergency preparedness and response in North and South Carolina in the lead up to Hurricane Florence. Because rural areas tend to be home to older, sicker, and poorer people, and because of more limited transportation and broadband access, rural residents may be more severely impacted by this kind of storm.
Source: City Lab
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When Seconds Count: One Funder's Work to Improve Stroke Outcomes in Rural America
Sep 10, 2018 - Highlights the philanthropic work of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to expand and enhance stroke care in the upper Midwest, with a specific focus on their recent work in Nebraska. Stroke mortality in rural areas can be as much as 30% higher than in urban areas, but investments in these largely-rural states with longer emergency response time work to reduce this disparity.
Source: Inside Philanthropy
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New Data Provides a Deeper Understanding of Life Expectancy Gaps
Sep 10, 2018 - Blog post from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announcing a new interactive tool, compiled by the United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimate Project (USALEEP), that allows users to access life expectancy estimates by census tract. Life expectancy can vary widely based on where people live due to a number of factors. By providing extremely local data, the hope is that this tool can shine a light on inequities and equip local leaders to address them. USALEEP is a joint effort of the RWJF, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Association for Public Health Information Systems (NAPHSIS).
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Culture of Health Blog
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USDA Partners with Communities to Support Opioid Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Opportunities in Rural America
Sep 10, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $10.7 million to support opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery through the Community Facilities program. This funding will support 85 projects in 22 states.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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MAP Rural Health: Technical Expert Panel Call for Nominations
Sep 7, 2018 - The National Quality Forum (NQF) is seeking nominations for a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) of up to three nationally known experts in statistics or measure methodology to develop recommendations on how to address the challenge of calculating healthcare measures when case volume is low. Nominations are due by September 24, 2018.
Source: National Quality Forum
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USDA Partners with HHS to Support Rural Communities Combating Opioid Misuse
Sep 6, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that a group of Cooperative Extension partners will be eligible to apply for grants through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help rural communities working to address the opioid epidemic. Grants will be offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) via the Rural Opioid Technical Assistance (ROTA) program.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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CDC: Surgeon General's Call to Action: “Community Health and Prosperity” Federal Register
Sep 6, 2018 - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking comments by November 5, 2018 on an upcoming Surgeon General's Call to Action entitled "Community Health and Prosperity." The purpose of the Call is to show that investments in community health can improve the health and prosperity of communities and to encourage the private sector and policymakers to invest in community health improvements.
Source: Federal Register
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USDA to Implement Regulatory Reforms to Increase Access to Capital in Rural Areas
Sep 5, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hosting listening sessions to solicit feedback on a plan to increase access to capital in rural areas by streamlining regulations for four Rural Development loan guarantee programs. These programs are the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program, the Water and Waste Disposal Guaranteed Loan Program, the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, and the Rural Energy for America Program. These listening sessions can be attended virtually, and will take place in Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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A Rural Town Banded Together to Open a Hospital. Its Foe? A Larger Hospital.
Sep 5, 2018 - Details efforts within a rural town in Florida to open a new hospital. The area has a high poverty rate and significant health disparities, many related to the distance people have to travel for care. In addition to regulatory and financial hurdles, a larger hospital 40 miles away has asked the state to deny their proposal, a move that has delayed plans to build the hospital. (May require subscription to view article.)
Source: The New York Times
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How Hospitals Are Addressing the Needs of Underserved Children
Sep 4, 2018 - Highlights three hospitals from around the country that work to improve the health of underserved children, two of which are in rural areas. Winona Health in Minnesota holds Healthy Kids events to reduce childhood obesity through physical activity in play environments. FirstHealth in North Carolina has established three dental care centers to increase access to oral healthcare.
Source: American Hospital Association
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Sick River: Can These California Tribes Beat Heroin and History?
Sep 4, 2018 - Discusses the struggles of several tribes in Northern California related to drug use and environmental factors impacting health, access to food, and economic stability. These issues are intertwined, with the health of the river and the desperation its pollution creates both spiritually and for people who rely on it for subsistence fishing influencing drug use. (May require subscription to view article.)
Source: The New York Times
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USDA Partners to Provide Transitional Housing for Rural People in Recovery from Opioid Misuse
Aug 31, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) announced an innovative agreement in which a nonprofit organization will purchase homes from the USDA and convert them to transitional housing for people recovering from opioid misuse. Also details the first agreement in this initiative between the USDA RD and the Isaiah House in Kentucky.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Dead Reckoning: America's System of Coroners and Medical Examiners is Facing Unprecedented Challenges
Aug 31, 2018 - Details the increased workload on coroners, medical examiners, and forensic pathologists in part due to the opioid epidemic, focusing on Kentucky to shine a light on the national issue. Coroners' offices are struggling under the increased workload and expense, in some cases risking or even losing their accreditation. But even with funding, medical examiners can be difficult to recruit or retain due to high medical school debt and the lower pay scale and there are only 500 board-certified forensic pathologists in the country, less than half of the estimated need. This increased pressure can lead to less in-depth investigations of deaths, which may also impact public health.
Source: Governing
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Hoeven: We Must Work to Find Housing Solutions for Rural Communities
Aug 30, 2018 - Statement from Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, on the oversight field hearing led by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) entitled "Overcrowded Housing and the Impacts on American Indian and Alaska Natives." Discusses crowded housing in rural, tribal villages in Alaska and the connection to the lack of affordable housing options in these communities.
Source: United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
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USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities Bridge the Broadband e-Connectivity Infrastructure Gap
Aug 29, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a new webpage that provides direct access to information on programs that currently offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities and, in the coming months, will offer an additional $600 million to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Connect America Fund Auction to Expand Broadband To Over 700,000 Rural Homes And Businesses
Aug 28, 2018 - Press release from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which revealed that the Connect America Fund Auction results indicate that over 700,000 rural homes and small businesses will gain access to high-speed internet. $1.488 billion will be distributed to 103 providers in 45 states over the next ten years to expand rural broadband service in underserved areas.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
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Broadband and the Opioid Epidemic: Connecting Rural Communities to Hope
Aug 27, 2018 - Guest post for the Rural Broadband Association by Anne Hazlett, the Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Discusses the impact of broadband internet access on rural economies and on rural residents' access to healthcare, including behavioral healthcare. Touches on mental health, the opioid epidemic, and efforts to expand broadband access.
Source: The Rural Broadband Association
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The Health 202: Here's Why Rural Independent Pharmacies Are Closing Their Doors
Aug 23, 2018 - Cites a report by the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, which found that more than 16% of independently owned rural pharmacies shut down between 2003 and 2018. Discusses possible reasons for such closings. (May require subscription to view entire article)
Source: The Washington Post
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CMS Announces New Model to Address Impact of the Opioid Crisis for Children
Aug 23, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) as a new Innovation Center payment and service delivery model. As part of the larger strategy to address the opioid epidemic, this model aims to reduce expenditures and improve the quality of care for children under 21 years of age covered by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through prevention, early identification, and treatment of behavioral and physical health needs.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Wanted: Rural Doctors
Aug 22, 2018 - Discusses the great need for doctors in rural areas, focusing on Alabama to illustrate the national problem. Highlights a number of barriers to recruitment and retention for rural areas including lower salaries, high student debt, lack of opportunities in rural areas for spouses, and more.
Source: U.S. News and World Report
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PCORI Board Approves $85 Million to Support New Studies on Opioids, Cancer and Other High-Burden Conditions
Aug 21, 2018 - The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors has approved $85 million in grants for 16 projects that will compare two or more approaches to improving care and outcomes for a range of conditions, including opioid use, cancer, depression, and stroke.
Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
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A Conversation with Andrea Wendling
Aug 21, 2018 - Radio interview with Andrea Wendling, M.D., Professor of Family Medicine and Director of Rural Medicine Curriculum at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU-CHM). Discussion includes isolation faced by rural physicians and the work of the Rural Community Health Program, a rural training program for MSU-CHM medical students, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Patient Care Access Suffers Under IHS Clinician Shortage Problems
Aug 20, 2018 - Discusses the clinician shortage at the Indian Health Service (IHS), which extends to all provider types. Though the shortage varies between locations and provider types, it negatively impacts patient access to care when facilities have to cut services due to vacancies. Some of the shortage can be explained by the fact that most IHS facilities are located in rural areas where it can be difficult to recruit providers to work.
Source: Patient Engagement HIT
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CMS Awards $8.6 Million in Funding to States to Help Stabilize Markets
Aug 20, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded $8.6 million to 30 states and the District of Columbia to strengthen health insurance markets through innovative measures that aim to support market reforms and consumer protections under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). These funds come from unspent State Rate Review Grant funding from prior years, provided by the PPACA to improve the process for how states review proposed health insurance rates.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Rural Risk: Mobile Clinics Help Tackle Multifaceted Opioid Crisis
Aug 20, 2018 - Describes the work of two mobile clinics in the Ohio Valley working to help minimize the harm caused by the opioid epidemic. One provides education about the use of naloxone, teaching people how to help a person who has overdosed on opioids, as well as distributing naloxone. The other offers needle-cleaning kits, testing for hepatitis C, and refers people to other health services in their area. Using a mobile clinic allows these programs to reach rural people who might not have the ability to travel for these services.
Source: WFPL News
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HRSA: National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services; Notice of Meeting Federal Register
Aug 16, 2018 - The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services will hold a public meeting on September 10-12, 2018 in Charlotte, NC. Agenda items include a discussion of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a leading cause of mortality in rural, and the provision of oral health services. Requests to submit a written statement or make oral comments should be sent to Steven Hirsch at least 3 business days prior to the meeting.
Source: Federal Register
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HHS Awards $125 Million to Support Community Health Center Quality Improvement
Aug 15, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $125 million in funding for community health centers through the Quality Improvement grant awards. These awards, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will help 1,352 community health centers across the country improve quality, efficiency, and the effectiveness of healthcare delivery in the communities they serve.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Telepharmacy Eases Staffing Shortages at Rural Clinics and Hospitals
Aug 15, 2018 - Discusses ways in which telehealth and telepharmacy have allowed some rural hospitals to offer services they wouldn't otherwise be able to offer due to staffing and cost issues.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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NHSC New Site Application Deadline Extended to August 28
Aug 14, 2018 - The Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has extended the application deadline for new sites to August 28, 2018.
Source: HRSA National Health Service Corps
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A Conversation with Nicole Thorell
Aug 14, 2018 - Radio interview with Nicole Thorell, MSN, CEN, Chief Nursing Officer at Lexington Regional Health Center in Lexington, Nebraska. Discussion focuses on the work of Lexington Regional Health Center, including reducing readmission rates by over 80% using a transitional care team and their successes with recruitment and retention, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Our Healthcare Heroes
Aug 13, 2018 - Blog post from the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), George Sigounas, on National Health Center Week. Discusses the work of health centers across the country and the impact they have on health in their communities.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Blog
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Rural America Faces A Crisis In 'Adequate Housing'
Aug 11, 2018 - Highlights the housing shortage in a rural Nebraska town to shed light on the issue nationally. Lack of adequate housing in rural areas impacts the ability of rural communities to attract new industries and retain the ones they have. Part of this is recruitment and retention of employees, which is a concern for this town's hospital.
Source: NPR
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CMS Proposes “Pathways to Success,” an Overhaul of Medicare’s ACO Program
Aug 9, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would overhaul the Medicare Shared Savings Program. This program, established by the Affordable Care Act, is the program through which most of Medicare's Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) operate. Presently, for the first six years ACOs receive a shared savings payment from CMS when they keep costs down, but do not have to pay taxpayers back when costs are high, allowing them to transition to a new service delivery model without risk. The proposed rule would reduce the amount of time that an ACO can remain in the program without taking on risk in an effort to discourage market consolidation which may reduce choices for patients and increase costs. Comments are being accepted through October 16, 2018.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Rural Hospital Closures Climb Quickly to Eighty-Seven
Aug 8, 2018 - Blog post from the National Rural Health Association highlighting recent hospital closures across the country, bringing the total number of closures since 2010 to 87. With yet another closure on the horizon some areas of the country are left with even larger access issues than ever before.
Source: Rural Health Voices
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Rural Health Disparities in HIV Testing Found in the United States
Aug 7, 2018 - Highlights recent research published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases which found that rural residents have lower rates of testing for HIV, both in the previous year and over their lifetime. Also examined differences in testing locations (clinic, hospital, or doctor's office) between rural and urban residents.
Source: Infectious Disease Advisor
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Special Emphasis Notice (SEN): AHRQ Announces Interest in Health Services Research to Address the Opioids Crisis
Aug 2, 2018 - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has a number of research grant opportunities opening in the coming months with a focus on ways to advance our nation's understanding of the opioids crisis and provide solutions for addressing it.
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
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National Academy of Medicine Launches Action Collaborative to Counter Opioid Epidemic; Public-Private Partnership Will Coordinate Initiatives Across Sectors to Drive Collective Solutions
Aug 1, 2018 - The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), in partnership with the Aspen Institute, has launched a public-private partnership of more than 35 organizations committed to sharing knowledge, aligning ongoing initiatives, and addressing complex challenges related to the opioid crisis. The NAM Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic will establish shared priorities, identify unmet needs, and develop and disseminate evidence-based, multi-sector solutions to reduce rates of opioid misuse and improve outcomes.
Source: National Academy of Medicine
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Overcoming Payment Challenges to Realize the Promise of Telehealth
Jul 31, 2018 - The National Academy for State Health Policy’s (NASHP) Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Workgroup is exploring what new state policies and funding may be needed to implement more telehealth services across all states.
Source: National Academy for State Health Policy
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PCORI-Funded Projects Aim to Use Telehealth to Address Disparities
Jul 31, 2018 - Blog post from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) highlighting 3 of PCORI's 70 telehealth studies aiming to address health and healthcare disparities. Two of the three studies highlighted here are rural, focused on hearing loss in rural Alaska and using different telehealth strategies to provide mental healthcare in rural areas of Arkansas, Michigan, and Washington. Also includes information on PCORI's telehealth research more generally.
Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
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USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure; $4 Billion Available
Jul 31, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced up to $4 billion in funding available through its Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program to finance drinking water, storm water drainage, and waste disposal systems for rural communities with ten thousand or fewer residents. Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize, or build these systems through the interactive RD Apply tool or they can apply through one of the USDA Rural Development's state or field offices.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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CMS: Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; Quality Payment Program; and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program Federal Register
Jul 27, 2018 - Notice of proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services making changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and other Medicare Part B payment policies. Provides information on payment for rural facilities and providers throughout. Comments on the proposed rule are due by September 10, 2018.
Source: Federal Register
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