By Beth Blevins

Many State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) are receiving an additional $50,000 in funding this year, thanks to the advocacy of NOSORH and its partners.

The money, which became available on July 1, was part of the $2.5 million dollar increase in the SORH grant line. The additional funding is also subject to the 3:1 matching requirements that apply to the SORH grant. For every dollar received, there must be $3 given through state funding. According to NOSORH CEO, Teryl Eisinger, “The State Office of Rural Health program is structured as a true federal and state collaboration, ensuring that SORH can focus on the rural health needs in their state and ensuring information dissemination, coordination and technical assistance on federal programs and other resources to improve rural health.”

During regional meetings, SORH were asked how they will use this extra funding. A sampling of those responses is outlined below.

• The Alaska SORH (AK SORH) is using the extra money for a one-time start-up contract to bring in Comprehensive Advanced Life Support (CALS) training, said Tricia Franklin, AK SORH Director. “The CALS Provider Course is an educational program designed specifically for rural health care providers to meet their emergency medical training needs,” Franklin said. “CALS training is not currently provided in Alaska and the high cost to attend training out of state creates a significant barrier for trauma training opportunities. This initial training will incorporate instructor training to be able to expand the training to hospitals, EMS, and community health clinic medical teams locally, on an on-going basis, and at a reduced cost to providers.” The plan is to fund training for 48 providers, with 12 instructors, using a team approach.

• The North Dakota Center for Rural Health (ND SORH) is using the extra $50,000 to initiate a Rural Health Clinic (RHC) Technical Assistance (TA) and Education platform modeled after its Critical Access Hospital Quality Improvement Network, said Brad Gibbens, Center for Rural Health Acting Director. “We have worked closely with CAHs, clinics, and EMS over the years,” he said. “We are now increasing our TA to RHCs to address the needs of RHCs.” As part of this effort, ND SORH recently completed a public health survey to help identify how to bring more concentrated TA to rural public health. Additionally, ND SORH is helping to fund, along with the Montana SORH, an APGAR project that focuses on community readiness to host medical students and residents.

• The Idaho SORH (ID SORH) is partnering with its Primary Care Office “to support a rural-specific carve-out in the Idaho primary care needs assessment,” said Tonne McCoy, ID SORH Health Program Manager. ID SORH will partner with NOSORH “to offer Tier 3 TA to increase the volume of TA to Idaho RHCs and FQHCs on specific coding and billing educational webinars,” McCoy said. As part of this effort, they plan to acquire a consultant to provide Idaho Medicaid specific billing and coding education, and to conduct an informal Idaho RHC needs assessment, she said. ID SORH plans to host a webinar to review and show how to personalize the information, she said.

ID SORH also will use the money “to support an Office of Healthcare Policy Initiatives (OHPI) subcommittee focused on exploring the need and the potential to develop a state and/or federally-funded nursing loan repayment program,” McCoy said.

• The Pennsylvania SORH (PA SORH) will use the money for staff time for accessing, analyzing, compiling, and disseminating information to small rural hospitals and RHCs; providing continuing education to hospitals and RHCs on billing and coding; and, updating their website, said Lisa Davis, PA SORH Director.

• In North Carolina, the additional SORH funds will be used “to expand the level of support to primary care providers and staff in rural health clinics through hiring an additional Rural Health Centers Operations Specialist,” said John Resendes, Analytics and Innovations Manager at the NC Office of Rural Health. “The full-time position will assist RHCs and rural health centers on clinical quality improvement and telehealth adoption.”

Other SORH are also using the extra funding to target RHCs in their states. South Carolina is funding an RHC preparedness coordinator; Tennessee is partnering with the TN-Rural Health Association to do education and training for RHCs; Utah plans to use the money to provide direct technical assistance for RHCs; and Wyoming is planning to do resources development of TA materials for RHCs.