VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue December 8, 2014

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
Funding Opportunities


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O'Connor Re-elected

VRHA Executive Director Beth O'Connor has been re-elected to the position of State Association Council Chair by the membership of the National Rural Health Association.  This position also serves to represent all of the State Rural Health Associations at NRHA's Policy Congress and on the Board of Trustees.

Click here for the full press release.

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Portal to Close

VRHA was discouraged to learn that the funding for the Virginia Rural Health Data Portal has been eliminated.  Statement from the VDH Office of Minority Health and Health Equity:

"The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) is surprised by the news that the Data Portal is being dismantled.  After receiving decreased funding awards from multiple funders, the office was forced to review its programs and make very difficult decisions about which programs could be feasibly continued during FY2014-15.  The decision to cut the funding for the Data Portal was not easy, but was made based on the knowledge that, though OMHHE did not have funding to contribute, it had data to contribute and a wealth of rural partners who could bring resources together to financially support the Data Portal.  This collaborative alignment is what was, and continues to be, hoped for by OMHHE."

The Data Portal is scheduled to cease operations at the first of the year. VRHA and GeoHealth Innovations are looking to form a group to explore ideas for alternative sources of funding.  If you would like to participate in this effort, please contact Steve Sedlock.  

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In Memory

It was with shock and profound sadness that we learned of the passing of VRHA member Stephen Bowman, Senior Staff Attorney for the Joint Commission on Health Care.  Stephen passed away suddenly of natural causes at his home December 3rd.  Stephen is survived by a lovely wife and three young children.  

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Virginia News

Approval for Lee

By News Channel 11

It's a major victory for people in Lee County Virginia who've worked for months to re-open the county's only hospital. The Virginia Department of Health has granted an application for a certificate of public need for what likely will be called the Lee County Community Hospital.
That clears the way for the Lee County Hospital Authority to re-open a 25 bed critical access hospital in Pennington Gap, Virginia.

Lee County Hospital Authority Councilman Tom Clarke confirmed Virginia's health commission had signed the Lee County CON application. The hospital authority received "conditional approval" for its certificate of public need application on October 20th, with stipulations the hospital provide free services or reduced rates to certain qualifying patients.

Read the full article.

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One Year After Gus

By Newsplex.com

Mental health has been a major talking point around the state since Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds was rushed to the hospital last year after being attacked by his son. Since then, there have been major improvements in the mental health field, but there is still some work to be done. 

Since then mental health laws have changed for the better, including a longer holding time of eight hours during an ECO. Crisis intervention teams are also available at hospitals. This is a program that started back in October, where social workers are available inside hospitals to also help with patients dealing with mental illness.

Read the full article.

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Close to Home

By Sam P.K. Collins - ThinkProgress

Later this month, Americans can get an inside look into one of those RAM events when the documentary Remote Area Medical hits movie theaters. The film focuses on a three-day pop-up clinic the nonprofit hosted in the rural community of Bristol, Tennessee in 2012. While the region is best known as the “birthplace of country music,” the documentary doesn’t focus on the town’s contribution to the genre.

Instead, viewers will get to meet some Bristol residents as they endure long waits in the cold to receive the eye care, dental care, medical exams, vaccinations, and follow-up care they desperately need but can’t afford through conventional means.

“We want to inspire people to volunteer for RAM but we also want people to see what it’s like to live without health care,” Farihah Zaman, Remote Area Medical‘s co-director, told ThinkProgress. “Statistics are often divorced from reality because they don’t show the faces of who it affects and why it happens. What’s heartbreaking about this story is that the resources exist but they’re not available to everyone.” 

Read the full article.

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National News

45 CAHs Must Reapply

By Anthony Brino - Healthcare Finance

Forty-five critical access hospitals will lose their rural status amid changes in federal demographic classifications, and must reapply to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by September 2016 to keep their critical access designation.

The U.S. Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget changed their urban and rural classification in several dozen regions around the country. For the critical access health program, that meant reclassifying 105 rural counties as located in an urban area. The 45 affected hospitals in those counties now must prove that they serve largely rural and small town populations. 

Read the full article and review the list of affected facilities.  NOTE: none are in Virginia.

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ACA & Rural Hospitals

By Heather Drost - California Healthline

In the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act's passage, some stakeholders expressed concern that rural hospitals would struggle to meet the law's requirements and would be forced to shut down or merge with larger health systems. However, nearly four years later, the jury is still out on how rural hospitals have been affected by the law.  

This edition of "Road to Reform" takes a look at the challenges facing rural hospitals and how the ACA might address them.

Read the full article.

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Investing in Rural America 

By Hope Kirwan - KBIA

When people think of the United States Department of Agriculture, they of course think about things related to agriculture - farms, crops, livestock.  But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the USDA is about much more than that. It’s really about improving the quality of life in rural areas.  

It’s hard to believe, but the USDA has invested almost 200 million dollars into bringing the internet to many of the country’s smaller communities. The investment has huge implications for rural healthcare.

“If you're a doctor, a healthcare provider in a small community and you want to access expert help and assistance for a patient you have and you want to use telemedicine, you're going to have to have broadband capacity,” Vilsack said. 

Read the full article.

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Rural Remedies

By David Wasson - Spokesman-Review

Growing up, Liz Stuhmiller spent long summer days working in her family’s wheat and barley fields near Reardan. “I’ve had to work ever since I was 12, and if you’re from a small town that’s a lifestyle you understand — but it’s also something a lot of people haven’t been exposed to,” said Stuhmiller, who now is Dr. Stuhmiller and in her final year of family medicine residency in Spokane. “A lot of people think small towns don’t have much to offer, but I think it’s what you make of it.”

Among physicians, Stuhmiller is a statistical minority.  She’s preparing for a career as a small-town doctor, a choice studies show at least 65 percent of America’s physicians are unlikely to even consider. Her path from high school to physician residency illustrates what some believe could become a key strategy in combating rural physician shortages: recruit more medical students from America’s small towns.

Read the full article.

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Mark Your Calendar

For more information about these and other events, visit the VRHA Calendar

December 10: 
Strengthening America’s Rural Dental Workforce - webinar
December 11 & 12: Virginia Rural Health Association Annual Conference - Staunton
February 3-5: Rural Health Policy Institute - Washington, DC
March 29-31: Shaping the Future of Healthcare through Innovation and Technology - White Sulphur Springs
April 8-9: Virginia Forum on Youth Tobacco Use - Richmond

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Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Detailed Tables
Provides data on mental health conditions, co-occurring substance use disorders, use of mental health services, and unmet needs. Rural-specific information is available in the detailed tables that list "geographic characteristics."

Successful Health Insurance Outreach, Education, and Enrollment Strategies for Rural Hospitals
Provides best practices for hospitals to use in health insurance outreach and enrollment efforts based on interviews with administrators, staff and community representatives at eleven small rural hospitals. Also discusses certified application counselors who help individuals enroll in health insurance and the importance of collaborative partnerships in the community to conduct insurance enrollment outreach and education.

National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2011 Emergency Department Summary Tables
Provides data on emergency department hospital visits, including information for non-metropolitan hospitals. Table 27 provides detailed hospital and emergency department characteristics by metropolitan status. Additional tables that include metro/non-metro data include Table 1, with general overview information, and Table 14, with injury visit data.

Talk Health Insurance to Me
A RWJF bilingual advertising campaign to provide information on quality, low-cost health insurance plans, financial help, and in-person assistance.

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Funding Opportunities

Covidien Cares
The Covidien Cares community grant program provides support to local nonprofit organizations working in the area of health in company communities around the world.

The Humana Foundation
The Humana Foundation supports nonprofit organizations and social institutions that focus on supportive relationships and their potential to generate healthy behaviors and prevent chronic disease. The Foundation primarily funds organizations in communities where Humana has a significant presence. (NOTE: the entire Commonwealth of Virginia qualifies.) Characteristics of strong funding proposals include engaging multiple generations in ways to improve their health, using evidence-based practices to promote health, supporting the prevention of chronic disease, and encouraging healthy behaviors through supportive relationships. The minimum grant request is $10,000.

blue moon fund
The blue moon fund works to build human and natural resilience to a changing and warming world. Within the U.S., support is provided to nonprofit organizations in the following two regions of biodiversity threatened by climate change and industrial activity. In Chesapeake-Appalachia, the fund supports work to preserve the ecosystems that support rural mountain populations and feed the Chesapeake Bay, and sustainable ways to produce energy and manage natural resources.  Letters of inquiry may be submitted throughout the year; proposals are reviewed by invitation only. 

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