New England Rural Health Association
April Newsletter
Organization News

Hello NERHA Members and Friends, 

The New England Rural Health Association is led by a wonderful group of people from across the six state region who serve on our Board of Directors. Beyond their busy day jobs, they are all passionate advocates and supporters of rural health and we could not do this work without them. It has come time to transition several seats as Board members have reached their term limits or embarked on new journeys. I am sad to see them depart because they were the first group I got to work with when joining the association. They all welcomed me with open arms and now it is my turn to say farewell. Although, I heard you never get to fully escape working with the association (Just ask Eric Turer). Each of you will always have a seat at our table. 

Typically our outgoing members would be honored at our annual meeting, but since that could not take place this past year we want to make sure they receive the recognition they deserve. Please join us in wishing our outgoing board members well. We cannot thank you enough for your service to NERHA over the years. 
 

Thank You All!

Rhode Island - John Goodman

Connecticut - Sue Starkey

Massachusetts - Claire Sequin

Maine - Laurie Kane Lewis

Maine - Danielle Hersey
 

I wanted to say a very special thank you to Danielle Hersey, who has been our Board Secretary and Chair of our Conference Committee. You have always been a rock for the association and ensured a smooth conference during a time of transition. I know you were influential in leading me to this path. You will be greatly missed and I’ve been lucky to call you a colleague and friend (and former boss ☺). 
 

Welcome and Introduction to our New Board Members!
 

ME - Michael Pancook, Maine Primary Care Association, CHCNet Program Coordinator

ME - Dr. Sue Woods, Physician iMAT Hub, Southern Maine Health Care, Course Development, Roux Institute/Northeastern University, & Adjunct Associate Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine

RI – Monica Blanchette, Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition, Substance Use Prevention Coordinator

MA - Read Allen, UMASS Medical School, Student

CT - Michael Hebert, MSW, MBA, Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging, Executive Director

VT - Luca Fernandez, Vermont Department of Health Rural Health, Program Administrator
 

We are so thrilled to have all of our new Board of Directors join in guiding the path of the association. Each brings such unique and vast experiences and expertise. Please join us and welcoming this wonderful group of people! 

You can learn more about our team here.

Thank you,

Ann Marie Day
Executive Director

President's Corner

Are you ready for some money? Then read on. Last week President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package called the American Rescue Plan. A few key healthcare funding provisions:

  • $8.5 billion for rural providers including small hospitals, CAHs, and FQHCs

  • $7.6 billion to expand the public health workforce

  • $7.6 billion of flexible relief for community health centers

  • A lot more to support COVID-19 vaccination, testing, surveillance, education, etc.

Think a minute about what this means. A LOT of $$ will be flowing quite soon to healthcare providers, including some rural carve-outs. One example: for the about 1,400 community health centers, $7.6B translates to an average of $5.4 million per health center. It’s not all coming as one big chunk of cash, of course. It will likely come through a mix of direct awards, grants, incentives, etc. There will be some kind of formula based on numbers of patients served and things like quality metrics, vulnerable populations, etc. However, the point is that a lot of money will be flowing down the various pipelines pretty quickly. Maybe starting in April.

I can say from personal experience that spending this sudden influx of money will be a challenge, to say the least. Many of us haven’t been able to spend everything we got in 2020 from the COVID relief acronym train of PPP, PRF, HHS, HRSA, FCC, etc. The conflicting requirements and eligibility for spending from each funder made it a major headache as providers scrambled to re-budget existing funds and juggle new awards. For instance, everyone rushed to shift enough salaries to PPP to hopefully forgive the loan. Then they had to re-budget and spend down money allocated elsewhere for personnel way back in 2019 before any of us heard of COVID. I personally am trying to write four requests to carry over funds that we were unable to spend in 2020.

Don’t get me wrong. We all welcome and are grateful for the relief funds. They will be critical in keeping many of our struggling rural providers afloat. But I for one am also dreading the flood gates opening, because the same fire drill will happen again, but multiplied by a factor of four or five in 2021. Providers will be looking for help to spend our relief funds FAST. Rural and small providers in particular, with limited staff working overtime to vaccinate the population, will be in need of competent, knowledgeable consultants and contractors, as well as equipment, supplies, and services. 

I suspect that many provider organizations will be paying attention to what care and services will look like in two or three years and to position themselves accordingly with some of these windfall funds. However, the work will have to be done quickly, as most of this one-time funding will likely have a one year duration. Everyone will be competing to spend quickly but compliantly.

By the way, did I mention earmarks? They’re back, now called “Community Project Funding,” with some reforms to reduce the pork factor. The pot is $15 billion for House and Senate combined. Each member of the House is allowed to propose up to ten total Community Project Funding grants. The rules for the Senate are still in progress, but likely Senators will likely have at least as many projects to propose. 100 Senators. 432 Congressfolk. Do the math. Healthcare provider organizations are already getting their wish lists in to their favorite elected representative. The word is that projects in the $500-750K range are more likely to be funded than larger ones. Yet another funding pipeline. Who will do the work?

So, as a public service announcement to all of you consultants and vendors out there:

Get ready: Keep your ears and eyes open about upcoming funding opportunities for healthcare providers. Hot topics other than COVID: Telehealth. Remote patient monitoring. Quality. Behavioral health. Substance use disorder. Chronic conditions. Workforce. Project management. Capital projects. Equity (including rural).

Get set: Position yourselves to offer the kinds of services and products needed quickly and efficiently. Make it easy for providers to follow procurement and reporting requirements. Be ready to start and deliver quickly.

Go! Good luck to us all in improving rural health and wellness and, incidentally, injecting much-needed capital into our communities.

Happy Spring!

My very best,

Andy

Member Spotlight

If you’d like to be considered for a member spotlight, please let us know!
Save The Date!
We are thrilled to announce the 2021 New England Rural Health Conference

Rural Resiliency: Innovation and the Journey Forward

November 3rd and 4th at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine
 
This has been a challenging year for all of us but, the fall conference gives us hope and excitement for in-person connection and learning that we have been so greatly missing. So many innovative programs and opportunities have arisen from fighting the pandemic and we want to highlight the rural strength and creativity that has clearly shown through.
 
Our conference is an opportunity for rural healthcare professionals, hospital administrators, educators, students and community leaders to learn from experts in rural topics, and to network with each other. Designed to involve all sectors that impact the health of people in rural New England, this multidisciplinary event gives attendees the opportunity to delve into specific areas of interest or participate in sessions spanning a variety of topic areas. 
 
This event is designed to meet the needs of those interested in improving the health and wellbeing of our region's rural communities. Over the past 20+ years, the annual conference has become one of the Association's largest events, attracting over 300 participants. While we aren’t sure if we will be able to safely gather this many people by November, we are working to plan for a hybrid model if necessary.
 
Stay tuned for Call for Presenters, Posters, & Sponsors, and more details coming soon. We can’t wait to be back at Sunday River with all of you!

National Minority Health Month 2021

April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM) and this year’s theme is #VaccineReady. This year the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is focusing on mitigating the disproportionate negative impacts COVID-19 is continuing to have on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities and underscoring the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available.

Throughout the month, OMH invites everyone to join the #VaccineReady campaign to empower vulnerable populations to get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, share accurate vaccine information, participate in clinical trials, get vaccinated when the time comes and proactively practice COVID-19 safety measures as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Visit the bilingual NMHM website to find downloadable graphics, toolkit materials and more information. Sign up for the National Minority Health Month topic on our email list for updates.

Learn More
Resources
Which COVID-19 Vaccine? 

All COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States are safe and effective. The best COVID-19 vaccine is the first one that is available to you. CDC does not recommend one vaccine brand over another. 

Learn more about the three vaccines that are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

You can find answers to your questions, including information on side effects, what activities you can start doing after vaccination, and more.

Presents graphs, charts, and data highlighting services provided by Community Health Centers, characteristics of the patients served, and progress made in improving access to healthcare. Reports on health centers' financial health, workforce status, economic impact, challenges to meeting the demand for healthcare needs, and more. Includes statistics on telehealth service offerings with breakdowns by urban or rural status. Contains maps with data by state throughout.

Looking at the Rural Homelessness Experience: Definitions, Data, and Solutions

Explains how homelessness impacts health. Features a Vermont organization's work using the evidence-based Housing First model to help people with mental health and substance use challenges and others who lack social supports and have housing needs.

Rides That Save Lives Toolkit: COVID-19 Vaccine Equity for Older People

Provides strategies and best practices to help community organizations, mobility providers, and other partners improve vaccine access for older adults. Includes information to help reach people who are homebound, who no longer drive, have a disability, or lack caregiver support. Also covers how to address concerns about vaccine safety.

Rural Community-based Palliative Care: Improving Health and Reducing Disparities in Access and Services

Toolkit describing a framework for the development of rural community-based palliative care capacity and services. Includes information and links to resources regarding assessing community needs, foundational tools, process development, service implementation.

Recent News

Links

Maine - We must protect health care gains as we recover from the pandemic

Maine - Mobile clinic marks vaccine shift, but experts say more needed in Maine’s rural areas

New Hampshire - New Hampshire leads country in distributing COVID-19 vaccines


Vermont - Looking at the Rural Homelessness Experience: Definitions, Data, and Solutions: Pathways Vermont Housing First: Model for Rural Homelessness
 


 

CDC and FDA Call for Pause on Administration of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

CDC and FDA have called for a pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to a rare and severe type of blood clot.

Read more in the bulletin we sent this morning. You can also listen to a replay of this morning's FDA/CDC Joint Media Call on the FDA YouTube channel.
 



Rural Hospitals Eye Benefits of Telehealth Post-Pandemic

Describes how rural healthcare providers play a crucial role in fighting COVID-19 in Massachusetts, but experience financial challenges that have been worsened by the pandemic. Explains how funding and expanded access to telehealth will help support the provision of care in rural and underserved areas, even after the pandemic.

Advocate and Take Action

On the Hill

URGENT: House Appropriations Deadlines Approaching

If you haven't submitted appropriations request forms to your Members of Congress, the deadline to do so is Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Please find detailed instructions on how to fill out appropriations request forms on our website. The deadline to sign onto the House FY22 CHC Appropriations Letter is Friday, April 23, 2021. Please contact your Representatives and ask them to co-sign the letter. The list of Members who have already signed onto the House FY22 CHC Appropriation Letter can be found here. Senators Stabenow and Wicker's offices will release the Senate FY22 CHC Appropriations Letter Tuesday, April 13, 2021, allowing senators to begin co-signing. The deadline to sign-on is currently April 23, 2021. NACHC will post a copy of the letter and further instructions on our website as soon as it is released. 
 

Biden Releases Outline of Discretionary Budget Request

On April 9, 2021, President Biden released his discretionary budget request. The request included a 16% increase for non-defense discretionary spending and a 23.5% increase in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The "skinny" budget outlined top-line numbers for federal agencies and did not include specific funding levels for programs like CHCs. The entire budget will be introduced in May or June. Negotiations over the size and scope of Biden's FY22 budget and other spending priorities continue. While Democrats look to reconciliation to pass major legislation, Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on April 12, 2021, to discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. 


Senate Finance Committee Will Hold Confirmation Hearings

On April 14, 2021, Senate Finance Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Andrea Joan Palm and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who have been nominated as HHS Deputy Secretary and CMS Administrator.  
 

HHS Sec. Becerra to Testify at House LHHS-Ed Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify on April 15, 2021, in front of the House Appropriations Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on the Biden Administration's FY22 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services. NACHC has submitted questions for Members to consider asking the Secretary.
 


 

NERHA Policy Issue Request Form 

The New England Rural Health Association utilizes our Policy Committee to take action around emerging issues affecting rural health. Do you have policy issues you’d like to share with us? Check out our Policy Issue Request Form, which allows our members to share policy items with us that we can help support. This form outlines the key information that the Policy Committee needs in order to consider a policy issue for action. By completing this form you will be identified as the 'Champion' of the issue and will need to participate in the discussions and action items related to the issue. Thank you for partnering with the NERHA to protect rural health.

Interested in Policy? - Join our “Health Policy Happy Hour” committee meetings the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 5-6pm. Please email admin@newenglandrha.org to get added to the invite.
Funding & Opportunities

Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS)

Today HHS announced measures to improve maternal health in the United States, one being the RMOMS Program.  HRSA expects approximately $3 million available to fund up to three health networks in this cooperative agreement program.  The program intends to demonstrate the impact on access to and continuity of maternal and obstetrics care in rural communities through testing models that address the following RMOMS Focus Areas: 1) Rural Regional Approaches to Risk Appropriate Care, 2) Network Approach to Coordinating a Continuum of Care, 3) Leveraging Telehealth and Specialty Care, and 4) Financial Sustainability. The goals of the program are to: (i) improve maternal and neonatal outcomes within a rural region; (ii) develop a sustainable network approach to increase the delivery and access of preconception, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum services; (iii) develop a safe delivery environment with the support and access to specialty care for perinatal women and infants; and (iv) develop sustainable financing models for the provision of maternal and obstetrics care in rural hospitals and communities.

Moreover, this program will allow awardees to test models in order to address unmet needs for their target population which could include populations who have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes, health disparities and other inequities.

The applicant organization must be part of a group of entities that are either an established or a formal network, which may need to be expanded to meet this program’s network definition.  A network is defined as an organizational arrangement among three or more separately owned domestic public and/or private entities, including the applicant organization.  For the purposes of this program, the applicant must have a network composition that includes: 1) at least two rural hospitals or Critical Access Hospitals; 2) one health center under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or FQHC look-alike); 3) at least one Level III and/or Level IV facility (as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists); 4) regionally and/or locally available social services in the continuum of care (i.e., state Home Visiting and Healthy Start Programs); and 5) the state Medicaid program.

Eligible applicants may request up to $1M each year in the program’s 4-year period of performance September 1, 2021 - August 31, 2025. 

View on Grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=329770
 



Resource Alert

Funding Available for
Rural Vaccination/Safety Efforts

Deadline: April 20, 2021

 

Here's a new opportunity for rural places to advance health equity: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health is offering funding to connect minority and other underserved populations –including rural communities – with vital services and to promote pandemic safety measures.

As part of President Biden's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, the Administration has announced an effort to invest $250 million to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination among underserved populations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) will offer the funding as grants to localities, who will partner with community-based organizations, to reach racial and ethnic minority, rural and other vulnerable populations. 
 
The new initiative – Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 – is expected to fund approximately 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities for two years. Cities, counties, parishes or other similar subdivisions may apply for the funding. OMH will prioritize applicants serving localities with the highest social vulnerability and applicants with identified Minority Serving Institution partners –and they will seek equitable geographic distribution. OMH will be accepting applications for this new initiative through April 20, 2021. For more on this resource alert, visit the HHS news website.
 



ACL: Availability of Program Application Instructions for the Protection and Advocacy Systems Network To Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Access for People With Disabilities

Apr 9, 2021 -- The Administration for Community Living (ACL) announces the availability of $4 million for grants to agencies designated as Protection and Advocacy Systems according to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. This funding is for critical services to help communities combat COVID-19 and increase vaccine access for people with disabilities. Includes information on the projected award amounts to each state and territory.

Applications are due by April 23, 2021.
 



Maine Rural Medical Access Program

Financial incentives, in the form of reimbursement of insurance premiums, to ensure the availability of doctors who provide prenatal care and deliver babies in rural and underserved communities in Maine.

Geographic coverage: Maine

Application Deadline: May 3, 2021

 



Dr. Wendy J. Wolf Health Leadership Award

Award for an employee of a nonprofit organization in Maine that has demonstrated leadership in the areas of promoting access to healthcare for uninsured or underserved Maine people and/or in improving the health of people in Maine.
 



Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program Grants

Grants to improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas through the use of telemedicine, computer networks, and related advanced technologies.
 



Expanding the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program

HRSA has announced that all remaining health centers and look-alikes can now participate in the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program.

If your health center had not been invited previously, we sent an email last week to your Project Director to invite you (subject line: “BPHC Bulletin: Invitation to the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program”). It includes instructions on how to participate. The most important first step is to identify two individuals from your health center who will serve as the main points of contact for this program and have them complete self-registration for access to the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program Online Community as soon as possible.

Upcoming Events

Registration is Open for the NGS May 2021
Virtual Conference

The National Government Services Provider Outreach and Education Team is holding our latest bi-annual virtual conference on Tuesday, 5/11/2021 and Wednesday, 5/12/2021. This two full-day virtual conference will offer a variety of Part A, Part B, FQHC and self-service sessions. There are no associated charges for this virtual conference and you may register for as many sessions as you’d like.

Sessions will begin with a presentation, then we will address your questions. This is your opportunity to hear about the latest Medicare education from our POE team and ask your questions immediately following.

To register pleaes visit Webinars, Teleconferences & Events under the Education tab and scroll down to 5/11/2021 and 5/12/2021 to view and register for sessions. Seating is limited so register today!
 



Custom Learning Solutions - HCAHPS Webinar Series: HCAHPS Breakthrough Leadership™ Series R14 Brochure Launches April 15th 

Registration link: https://www.webinars.customlearning.com

Sponsor Code: NERHA14
 



HRSA Telehealth Learning Series: An Overview of Federal Broadband Programs

April 21 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern

 



Ending the HIV Epidemic:

Sexual Health in Primary Health Care Settings

Join HRSA and the Southeast AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) to discuss the importance of obtaining a detailed patient sexual history in primary care health settings for appropriate care and diagnosis of HIV. You will learn how to obtain a sexual history in primary care settings to potentially decrease the chances of a patient being lost to follow up. This will include addressing patients that have encountered barriers to care in the past and how to overcome shame and stigma that may be associated with testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or their sexual preferences.
 

Thursday, April 22

3:00-4:00 p.m. ET

Register Here

 



COVID-19 Updates for Primary Care Clinicians: Improving Prevention and Treatment for Rural and Underserved Communities

May 1 from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. Central

Rural Medical Education Collaborative

 


 

National Association of Rural Health Clinics
2021 Spring Institute

Join the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) virtually as they cover the topics you want and need to know about! The NARHC conferences are attended by RHC professionals at every level. Whether you are a CEO, CFO, Provider, Clinic Manager, Biller, or Coder, there is something for you! Sessions will be Tuesday & Thursday afternoons, April 13-27. Busy schedule? Session recordings will be made available on demand to watch when you are ready.

Some of the topics being covered include:

  • Staying Compliant During COVID-19

  • RHC COVID-19 Reporting Data & Vaccine Updates

  • Washington Update

  • Practice Manager Survival Guide Amid COVID-19

  • Update to RHC Telehealth Services

  • RHC Cost Reporting

  • Understanding the 2021 Changes to E&M Coding

  • Human Resources in the RHC

  • RHC COVID-19 Reimbursement Impact Considerations

To register or for more information including the agenda with learning objectives, visit NARCH'S events page at narhc.org.
 


 

The National Rural EMS & Care Conference is This Month - Register for New Perks!

The National Rural EMS & Care Conference's newest sponsor, the American Ambulance Association (AAA), is offering every attendee a FREE one-year membership to the AAA! This membership includes free webinars on ambulance operations and advocacy, free publications including the 2021 Medicare Reference Manual and HR Manual, a subscription to the Daily Digest, and more. Your $300 registration cost will give you access to over $2000 worth of resources. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity and register for the conference today!

The virtual conference will take place April 20-22 from 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST each day. Click here for more information about the conference, including the agenda and how to register.

 



Webinar: How States Can Leverage Hospital Community Benefit Policy to Advance Community Health and Equity

April 26th at 3:00 EST - Click here to register



State of the Healthcare Industry: Market Updates for Rural Strategy

April 27th Time: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Eastern

National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health

 



The Northeast Telehealth Resource Center team is beyond excited to return to an in-person format for our 2021 event; This years' event be hosted in Manchester, NH on September 23-24, 2021 at the DoubleTree Downtown!

Our call of abstracts for breakout sessions during the event is now open, The proposal deadline is Friday, June 25th and Notifications will be made by Friday, July 9th.

Link to Abstract Submission Form:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NETRC2021Call4Abstracts

 

NERGN Telegenics Training 

Regsitration & Information Flyer

May 5 or May 6 at 1:00PM - 5:00PM


The entirely-virtual course, available at no cost, consists of: 

• Ten self-paced on-line modules (~3-4 hours total) 

• A mandatory four-hour, live Zoom training with telegenetics experts on  May 5 or May 6, 1:00 – 5:00 pm EST
Join US
Interested in becoming a new member or need to renew your membership? Join the New England Rural Health Association now to take advantage of networking opportunities including our regional conference, members only networking events, and educational sessions.
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