Rural Health News

Pennsylvania Free Quitline and Quitlogix for Pregnant Women

The American Lung Association is offering services to help pregnant moms live tobacco free. All services are private and free. Call toll free at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or go online to pa.quitlogix.org for more information.

Technical Assistance to Help Small and Rural Practices Succeed in the Quality Payment Program

Late last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the details of the Quality Payment Program.  On February 17th, CMS announced the award of up to $100 million to help clinicians in individual or small group practices of 15 clinicians or fewer succeed in the Quality Payment Program.  CMS awarded approximately $20 million to 11 organizations for the first year of a five-year technical assistance program that will provide customized, on-the-ground training and education to eligible clinicians and practices.  CMS intends to invest up to an additional $80 million over the remaining four years.

Rural practices are among those that will receive priority for this technical assistance.  The training and education resources will be available immediately, nationwide, and will be provided at no cost to eligible clinicians and practices.  This technical assistance can help eligible clinicians or groups prepare to report performance data to potentially earn positive payment adjustments (and avoid negative payment adjustments).

For more information, please view the press release. 

TRAIN PA Resource Available

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency have established TRAIN PA (pa.train.org), the Pennsylvania affiliate for the Public Health Foundation’s learning management system and network. TRAIN PA is a free, collaborative resource provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to public health organizations and academic institutions across the state to assist in their educational and workforce development efforts.

Signing up for a TRAIN PA user account is simple, and it offers you access to thousands of trainings provided by public health agencies at all levels of government, schools of public health and other academic institutions, and many others. 

USDA State Fact Sheets Available

The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the US Department of Agriculture has released new State Fact Sheets that provide information on population, income, poverty, food security, education, employment, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and agricultural exports. Data are available for all States, and for metro/non-metro breakouts within States. Links to county-level data are provided where available. With this release, statistics on poverty, educational attainment, per capita income, and earnings per job have been updated with the latest available data. View More>>

How does health insurance affect farmers and ranchers? Help influence rural health policy in upcoming survey.

January 31, 2017

Farmers and ranchers: How does health insurance affect you? Help influence rural health policy by participating in an upcoming USDA funded survey. Potential participants will receive a letter and survey; keep your eyes out for a mailing this February. Your responses will help researchers understand how health-insurance policy affects farmers’ and ranchers’ decisions to invest, expand, and grow their enterprises. Read More>>

New Value-Based Initiatives Resource for Rural Providers

The Catalog of Value-Based Initiatives for Rural Providers, was published online last week by Rural Health Value. This document catalogs and summarizes rural-relevant, value-based programs recently implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), including the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). Its purpose is to help rural leaders and communities identify HHS value-based programs appropriate for rural participation.

Pennsylvania Awarded Innovative Behavioral Health Grant

On December 22nd, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas announced that Pennsylvania was awarded a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration grant by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The commonwealth is one of eight states selected out of 24 applicants to receive the grant. While the ultimate amount of additional funds received is dependent on the usage of the CCBHC program, DHS estimates it could be an additional $10 million in federal funding.

The federal grant encourages states to adopt innovative approaches in the delivery of community-based behavioral health services. According to SAMHSA, the demonstration is part of a comprehensive effort to integrate behavioral health with physical health care, increase consistent use of evidence-based practices, and improve access to high-quality care for people with mental health and substance use disorders. Read More>>

VA Grants Veterans Direct Access to Nurse Practitioners Nationwide

In a major victory for our nation’s veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs this week announced a rule change that will grant veterans direct access to nurse practitioners working in the VA system nationwide. The new rule brings the VA more in line with modern nurse practitioner (NP) practice. It will enable NPs to serve veterans to a fuller extent of their education and training.

21 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted modern licensure rules for nurse practitioners. The VA’s new rule preempts licensure laws in states like Pennsylvania with outdated nurse practitioner rules.

“The people who serve our country in uniform deserve access to the highest quality health care our country can provide. We applaud the Veterans Health Administration for its decision to allow our veterans direct access to nurse practitioners,” said Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners President Lorraine Bock.

View the full press release: VA_Grants_Veterans_Direct_Access_to_Nurse_Practitioners_Nationwide.pdf

Rural America Story Map

How does the U.S. Census Bureau Define “Rural”? Where are the highest concentrations of rural populations in the U.S.? How has that changed from 1910 to 2010? Visit a new, interactive story map that combines authoritative maps with narrative text, images and multimedia content to tell the story of Rural America.

Explore the story map at  https://storymaps.geo.census.gov/arcgis/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=9e459da9327b4c7e9a1248cb65ad942a

Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health Honors Rural Health Champions with the 2016 Rural Health Awards

November 18, 2016

University Park, Pa. – During November 2016, the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) presented three awards to honor organizations and individuals who took leadership roles in rural health causes.  The awards were presented in venues throughout the commonwealth by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State, during Pennsylvania Rural Health Week, Nov. 14-18, which encompasses National Rural Health Day, held on Nov. 17.

On Nov. 14, community volunteer Ann Mumper of Punxsutawney County received the 2016 Rural Health Hero of the Year Award.  Mumper spearheaded the “Flight Packs for Patients Project,” which provides care packages for patients and their families who are life-flighted from the Punxsutawney Area Hospital to tertiary care hospitals in Pittsburgh.  Within each handmade cloth bag are items needed when traveling to a new area unexpectedly and in distress.

The 2016 Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award was presented on Nov. 15 to Jack Dennis, grants and development manager for Wayne Memorial Health Systems in recognition of his efforts to advance rural health programming in northeast Pennsylvania.  Dennis has secured $10 million in grants for Wayne Memorial Health System which has increased and expanded access to rural health care services in northern Pennsylvania and has greatly benefited the community. D ennis also was recognized for implementing multiple 24/7 tele-health programs and securing funding for a low-cost dental clinic in the beginning of his career.

The 2016 Rural Health Program of the Year Award, which recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need in a rural community, was presented on Nov. 16 to St. Luke’s Miners Rural Health Clinics.  The St. Luke’s Miners Rural Health Program provides access to high quality primary, preventive, specialty, and acute care services for patients, regardless of their ability to pay.  The program also provides transportation via the “Miners Loop” shuttle and uses integrated community and preventive health initiatives.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was selected to receive the 2016 Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award, which recognizes a Pennsylvania legislator for outstanding work and support of rural health initiatives that address an identified need in their district or across the state.  In the nomination, Casey was recognized for sponsoring legislation that addresses rural health needs and for his demonstrated effective leadership in rural communities.  A major focus of his recent efforts is focused on fighting the opioid epidemic, a prevalent epidemic in many rural Pennsylvania counties.  Casey will be presented with the award in the near future.

PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live.  Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania.  To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.  

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Terri Klinefelter, Outreach Coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or tjc136@psu.edu.

HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America

November 17, 2016

It has been five years since the President announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed an agreement to streamline how our programs work together to support rural health and to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.

In those five years, rural communities and rural health care providers in every state and territory have accessed USDA financing and HHS technical assistance to help improve local access to care and, and to support an interoperable health system.

For example, USDA Rural Development has financed projects to:

  • Build rural hospitals and expand rural health clinics
  • Rehabilitate infrastructure (e.g., servers, routers, computer docking stations) for wired and wireless health IT solutions in Critical Access Hospitals.
  • Purchase, install and adopt equipment and software necessary to ensure interoperable exchange of health information and support advanced health IT capabilities.
  • Offer telehealth specialty care in retirement communities and skilled nursing facilities,
  • Help health care organizations serving Indian and Tribal Reservations transition from paper to electronic health records
  • Enable rural hospitals to add beds for mental and behavioral health care and
  • Improve senior living conditions

Read more from the USDA Blog>>

St. Luke's Miners Rural Health Clinics Receive Rural Health Program of the Year Award

November 16, 2016

University Park, Pa. – St. Luke’s Miners Rural Health Clinics received the 2016 Rural Health Program of the Year Award presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) on Nov. 16 at St. Luke’s Miners Hospital in Coaldale, Pennsylvania.

The Rural Health Program of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need in a rural community; uses unique, creative and innovative approaches; ensures access to the community it serves; includes statewide resources as part of the planning and evaluation process; and demonstrates a significant benefit to the target population.  Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State, presented the award to Bill Moyer, president of St. Luke’s Miners Campus of the St. Luke’s University Health Network.

The nomination, submitted by Kelly Malone, Executive Director of the Schuylkill County United Way, described the St. Luke’s Miners Rural Health Program as a unique, creative, and innovative approach to providing accessible care to an underserved population.  The program is a result of the collaboration of community leaders from Schuylkill and Carbon counties that meet regularly as the St. Luke’s Miners Community Health Initiative Team.

The St. Luke’s Miners Rural Health Program provides access to high-quality primary care integrated with preventive, specialty, and acute care services.  It provides more than 12,000 face-to-face primary care visits, on-site diagnostic and therapeutic mental health services, and transportation for patients regardless of insurance or ability to pay.  The transportation service, or “Miners Loop,” is a shuttle to specialty services within the medically underserved area such as cardiology, orthopaedics, general surgery, gynecology, pain management, urology, oncology, sleep medicine, and infectious disease.

In her nomination, Malone noted that in addition to these services, this rural health program integrates community and preventive health initiatives including tobacco cessation, physical activity programs, a diabetes education and support group, and a Parkinson support group.  All 14 staff members of the program are trained in the Flinders Chronic Condition Management Program, which is used to measure and improve outcomes for 85 of their diabetes patients.

PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live.  Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania.  To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.  

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Terri Klinefelter, Outreach Coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or tjc136@psu.edu.

Wayne Memorial Health System Grants and Development Manager Jack Dennis Receives Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

November 15, 2016

University Park, Pa. – Wayne Memorial Health Systems Grants and Development Manager Jack Dennis received the 2016 Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award, which was presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) at a Nov. 15 event at Wayne Memorial Health System in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  The award was presented during Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania, Nov. 14-18, by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State.  The week encompasses Nov. 17, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

The Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding leader who has organized, led, developed or expanded an exemplary multi-dimensional rural community health program or initiative and who has demonstrated leadership to a rural community health program.

The nomination, submitted by Donna Decker and Jean Tuttle, recognized Dennis for his focus on addressing two major rural health issues in his position at Wayne Memorial Hospital:  access and breadth of services.  In the last 20 years, he has secured millions of dollars in competitive grants to increase access to and expand health care services in northern Pennsylvania.

Dennis helped secure federal and state funding to open a low-cost dental clinic for children through the Together for Health Dental Center and mobile dental van shortly after he was hired at Wayne Memorial.  He then helped secure the federally qualified health center (FQHC) designation for that dental center as well as several primary care offices in the area.  Dennis also showed his commitment to rural health by focusing his compassion and grant writing sophistication to secure grants and services for the Wayne Memorial Community Health Center (WMCHC).  With his expertise, WMCHC was granted approximately $10 million in grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, All One, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine programs, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Community-Based Health Care Program, and more.

Additionally, Dennis helped implement a 24/7 tele-neurology program for stroke victims, a tele-radiology program, a tele-neonatology program, and has volunteered for both United Way and Habitat for Humanity.  According to Decker and Tuttle, Dennis is a vital component of the Wayne Memorial Health System and his commitment to the community impacts individuals in tremendous ways.

PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live.  Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania.  To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.  

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Terri Klinefelter, Outreach Coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or tjc136@psu.edu.

Community Volunteer Ann Mumper Receives Rural Health Hero of the Year Award

November 14, 2016

University Park, Pa. – Community volunteer Ann Mumper received the 2016 Rural Health Hero of the Year Award, which was presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) at a Nov. 14 ceremony at Punxsutawney Area Hospital in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  The award was presented during Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania, Nov. 14-18, by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State.  The week encompasses Nov. 17, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

The Rural Health Hero of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding leader in the area of rural health who demonstrates a personal and professional commitment to the rural health needs of a community.

The nomination, submitted by Ben Hughes, vice president of professional and corporate services at Punxsutawney Area Hospital, recognized Mumper for her dedication to the Flight Packs for Patients Project.  The Flight Packs for Patients Project provides handmade cloth bags filled with snacks, cash, crossword puzzles, maps and directions, tissues, pens and paper, and additional supplies for patients and families who are life-flighted from rural Punxsutawney Area Hospital to tertiary care hospitals in Pittsburgh.  This care package provides essential items that might be needed quickly when unexpectedly traveling to a new area during a very stressful time.

Mumper spearheaded this project with input and assistance from families and clinicians while utilizing Punxsutawney Presbyterian Church resources for the benefit of the Punxsutawney Area Hospital community.

PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live.  Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania.  To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.  

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Terri Klinefelter, Outreach Coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or tjc136@psu.edu.

Governor Tom Wolf Proclaims November 14-18, 2016 Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania

November 1, 2016

University Park, Pa. – In an effort to draw attention to the wide range of issues that impact rural health, Gov. Tom Wolf has declared Nov. 14-18, 2016, as Rural Health in Pennsylvania week at the request of the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH).

Gov. Wolf made the proclamation to promote awareness of the full range of issues that impact rural health care throughout the Commonwealth and the health status of rural Pennsylvanians.

Nationally, Pennsylvania ranks as one of the states with the highest number of rural residents, with 23 percent of Pennsylvanians residing in rural areas.  In recognition of Pennsylvania’s diverse rural needs, the Commonwealth has supported the development of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, and other agencies and initiatives to address the needs of rural Pennsylvanians.

The week encompasses Nov. 17, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) to showcase rural America; increase awareness of rural health issues; and promote the efforts of NOSORH, State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) and others in addressing those issues.

“Nearly 59.5 million Americans, including 2.8 million Pennsylvanians, live in rural communities,” said Lisa Davis, PORH director and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. “These small towns and communities continue to be fueled by the creative energy of citizens who step forward to provide a wealth of products, resources, and services.

“Rural communities also face unique health care concerns: a lack of providers; accessibility issues, particularly in terms of transportation and technology; and affordability issues as the result of larger percentages of uninsured and underinsured citizens and greater out-of-pocket health costs. Rural hospitals and health care providers, which frequently are the economic backbone of the communities they serve, deserve special consideration so that they can continue to provide high-quality services and meet the needs of rural residents.”

To celebrate the work being done to achieve health care access and equity in Pennsylvania, PORH will present four Pennsylvania Rural Health Awards in communities across rural Pennsylvania.

PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live. Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit www.porh.psu.edu. 

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Terri Klinefelter, Outreach Coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or tjc136@psu.edu.

Rural Hospitals Outperformed Urban in Value, Readmissions, Hospital Acquired Condition Programs

When it comes to thwarting hospital-acquired infections and scoring better in government value-based purchasing programs, rural hospitals outperformed their urban counterparts and saw fewer penalties in 2015, shows a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Read More from Healthcare Finance>>

Top 5 Reasons Why the CMS Rural Summit Matters

On Wednesday, October 19th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hosted a Rural Health Solutions Summit in their Baltimore, MD headquarters.  More than 600 rural advocates (including NRHA leadership, staff, and members) participated in this meeting.

The stated purpose of the event was to bring together stakeholders from all sectors of the health care industry to discuss opportunities to improve access to care in rural America and to support local solutions and innovations in care delivery.  Additional information about the meeting itself, including videos from the event can be found HERE.

For rural advocates, here are five key reasons why this CMS Summit matters:

  1. Top of mind.
  2. Collaboration and coordination.
  3. Rural hospital closure crisis.
  4. Place matters.
  5. A new beginning.

For more detailed information on these five reasons, please visit the full blog post by Alan Morgan, National Rural Health Association Chief Executive Officer.

NIH Loan Repyament Programs Application Cycle is NOW OPEN

Approximately 1,500 researchers benefit from the more than $70 million the NIH invests each year. Participants in the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) receive up to $70,000of qualified educational debt repayment with a two-year contract.

Toolkit Launched for Critical Access Hospitals

Rural Quality Improvement Technical Assistance has launched a new Toolkit for Critical Access Hospitals. This guide and toolkit offers strategies and resources to help critical access hospital (CAH) staff organize and support efforts to implement best practices for quality improvement. It includes:

  • A quality improvement implementation model for small, rural hospital settings
  • A 10-step guide to leading quality improvement efforts
  • Summaries of key national quality initiatives that align with the priorities of the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP)
  • Best practices for improvement for current MBQIP measures
  • A simple, Excel-based tool to assist CAHs with tracking and displaying real time data for MBQIP and other quality and patient safety measures to support internal improvement efforts

Mid-Atlantic Public Health Training Center Launched

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Public Health Training Center (MAR-PHTC) is a partnership among schools of public health, academic institutions, and public health agencies and organizations. It works to strengthen the capabilities of the public health workforce to support the delivery of high quality public health services throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

MAR-PHTC engages state and local public health agencies to serve public health and health care practitioners across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington D.C.. It also supports thousands of other personnel in community-based agencies (such as behavioral health agencies, federally qualified health centers, and AIDS service organizations) that play important roles in connecting low-income, racial, and ethnic minority residents to preventive and clinical services in the region. The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health serves as the Central Office, collaborating with partners at Drexel University, West Virginia University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Institute for Public Health Innovation in the development and delivery of training opportunities to the current and future public health workforce.

Real Doc Hollywoods and Community Stars

As a way to honor rural health care providers and the generous community-minded spirit of rural America, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and the fifty State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) celebrated the 5th Annual National Rural Health Day on Thursday, November 19, 2015. NOSORH published Real Doc Hollywoods and Community Stars to highlight just a few of the health care providers and programs around the country who have made a positive impact on health in their local community. Fulton County Medical Center in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania and Project Bald Eagle of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania were recognized as "Community Stars."

New Resource Available: Aligning Leadership on the Rural Road to Value

The National Rural Health Resource Center has announced the availability of Aligning Leadership on the Rural Road to Value, a new resource designed to assist rural health care leadership teams as they navigate the transition from volume to value. This resource was developed with funding from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FOHRP) by the Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC), a program of the National Rural Health Resource Center.

Aligning Leadership on the Rural Road to Value is a series of leadership tools developed to enable rural health care leadership teams to examine and clarify roles for achieving performance excellence during the transition to value-based health care. The tools, including an introduction video, a grid that delineates the typical roles of health care leadership teams, and a series of self-assessments, are geared specifically toward three key hospital leadership roles:

  • Administrative Teams
  • Board Members
  • Physician Leaders

Penn State Extension Health Insurance Literacy Website Available

Those considering options for purchasing insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, which was created under the federal Affordable Care Act, will find comprehensive information on a newly revised website developed by Penn State Extension. The Health Insurance Marketplace is a unique opportunity for previously uninsured consumers, small businesses and others to shop for health insurance and compare plans at one location. The open enrollment period for 2016 began November 1 and runs to December 31, with coverage beginning as early as January 1. Designed to be a one-stop resource, the Penn State Extension Health Insurance Literacy website provides extensive resources that are just a keystroke or phone call away for Pennsylvania shoppers who want to do their homework before deciding which policy to buy.