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Secretary Sebelius announces $32 million to support rural health priorities

Posted Aug 22 2010 10:01pm

Funding included for rural hospitals, workforce, veterans and telehealth

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today more than $32 million in FY 2010 funds to increase access to health care for Americans living in rural areas.  The funds reach across seven programs administered by the Office of Rural Health Policy in HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“These funds reflect the priorities spelled out by President Obama in providing the best health care possible to rural Americans,” said Sebelius. “The ultimate goal is to build healthier rural populations and communities.”

“The grants will strengthen partnerships among rural health providers,” said HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield Ph.D., R.N.  “Funds will be used to recruit and retain rural health care professionals and modernize the health care infrastructure in rural areas.”

Funding for the seven programs includes:

  • More than $22 million for the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which supports improvements in health care quality in communities served by Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), efforts to improve the hospitals’ financial and operating performance, and the development of collaborative regional and local delivery systems.  The program has helped more than 1,300 hospitals convert to Critical Access status since its inception in 1998.
  • More than $3 million for the Rural Health Workforce Development Program, a new one-time pilot program.  The program supports the development of rural health networks that seek to improve the recruitment and retention of emerging health professionals (primary and allied health care students and residents) in rural communities.  It will promote a range of approaches to community-based training and can include a singular or collective focus on professions such as medicine, oral health, mental/behavioral health, nursing, pharmacy and other allied health professions.
  • More than $2 million for the Telehealth Network Grant Program, which helps communities build capacity to develop sustainable telehealth programs and networks.  Telehealth allows patients in underserved and remote areas to receive health care without traveling great distances; it also is used frequently for distance education and health care administration. The services provided via telemedicine range from primary care to highly specialized care found in leading academic medical centers.  
  • More than $1 million for the Telehealth Resources Center Grant Program, whichprovides technical assistance to help health care organizations, networks and providers implement cost-effective telehealth programs serving rural and medically underserved areas and populations.  The program is designed for entities with a successful track record in helping to develop sustainable telehealth programs.
  • Close to $1 million for the Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program, a new program that will help eligible entities coordinate innovative approaches, collaborative networks and virtual linkages to provide rural veterans and other rural residents access to mental health and other health care services.  The grants aim to improve mental health services through the use of health information exchange and telehealth in states where veterans make up a high percentage of the total population.
  • $770,000 for the Frontier Community Health Integration Demonstration Program, whose purpose is to develop and test new models for the delivery of health care services in frontier areas by improving access to care and the integration of care delivery to Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Almost $500,000 to the Rural Training Track Technical Assistance Demonstration Program, which will analyze the challenges and barriers facing Rural Training Track (RTT) residency program sites and then provide technical assistance to increase the number of family medicine physicians that choose to take part in these rural residencies.  RTT sites have a successful record of placing graduates in rural locations, with 75 percent of their graduates remaining to practice in rural settings.

Lists of awards from HRSA’s 2010 appropriation are available at:
http://www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2010tables/rural.html

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