Virginia Rural Health Association - Weekly Update
VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue  June 21, 2015

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
Funding Opportunities

Congratulations to VRHA student members:
Laura Mischell 
and Yasmin Bholat

for their 1st and 3rd place entries in the "Empowerment" segment
of the VCOM photo contest




Sec. Hazel at VRHA

Health and Human Resources Secretary William A. "Bill" Hazel Jr. will be the first speaker on the second day of the VRHA conference. As Secretary, Dr. Hazel oversees 11 state agencies with over 16,000 employees including such diverse programs as Medicaid, Behavioral Health, Social Services, as well as Aging and Rehabilitation. These combined agencies spend approximately one-third of Virginia's budget.

During his first term as Secretary, he led the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and helped establish the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. He served as the Founding Chair of ConnectVirginia, Virginia's health information exchange. He negotiated an agreement with the Department of Justice to improve services to individuals with Intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has become nationally recognized for leading an enterprise Information technology transformation in Health and Human Resources. He has devoted significant energy towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the HHR agencies. 
GIF logo

VRHA Annual Conference
October 13 & 14
Staunton, VA

Click the conference logo for event details.

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VRHA in the News 

The Virginia Rural Health Association is one of 24 entities nation-wide to have received a HRSA Rural Health Network Development Planning grant.  VRHA will use the grant to support the creation of a Rural Health Clinic Coalition in Virginia.  While many other states have either a stand-alone RHC association or a strong representation in their State Rural Health Association, Virginia has neither.  Consequently, Virginia RHCs do not have access to any centralized source for regulation updates, educational opportunities, or peer learning. 

Visit the VRHA website for details about the Virginia project or the HRSA website for information about Network Development Planning grants.

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CAHs and Goodlatte

VRHA has been working with the Office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte (6th District) to call attention to the regulatory challenges faced by Critical Access Hospitals.  Congressman Goodlatte drafted a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlining concerns about those challenges and requesting collaboration on developing better guidelines.

The letter has been signed by 75 members of Congress, including Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith (9th Distict).  Thanks Congressman Goodlatte!

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Virginia News

Our Rural Hospitals Aren't Healthy

By Delegate Patrick Hope - Washington Post

Rural hospitals play a unique role in the communities they serve. They are not just crucial to the well-being and health-care needs of local residents; they also are among the leading economic drivers in their regions. According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA), in 82 percent of Virginia’s rural counties, health care is among the top five largest employers.
Virginia’s rural hospitals directly employ more than 17,000 workers, the VHHA reports. These are jobs that pay well above average wages and have historically offered stable employment and advancement up the economic ladder.
Despite their outsize importance, both medically and economically, rural hospitals are battling the toughest fiscal environment they have ever encountered. According to the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center, almost 50 rural hospitals have closed nationally in just the past four years. Here in Virginia, one of our rural facilities closed in 2013. The financial outlook for our other hospitals is daunting.

Read the full editorial.

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Better Together


Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System officials are creating four community work groups designed to provide public input as the two organizations continue to explore the creation of a new, integrated and locally governed entity.

Through the website,, the health systems are requesting participation in the work groups from the community as well as subject matter experts such as nurses and other health professionals, doctors, public health officials and community advocates.

The work groups will provide input in solving some of the region’s most challenging health issues: Mental Health and Addiction, Healthy Children and Families, Research and Academics, and Population Health and Healthy Communities. The work groups’ findings will be used by East Tennessee State University as part of a deep-dive health needs assessment that will be conducted after the proposed merger between Mountain States and Wellmont is complete.

That assessment will provide a road map for the proposed new health system as it lays out a 10-year plan to improve community health. The work group meetings are designed to focus specifically on health improvement and are separate from public meetings that will be held in Tennessee and Virginia as part of the state approval process for the proposed merger.

Read the full article.

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Anatomy Partnership

By Alison Parker - WDBJ7

Several institutions across the region have partnered to create a state-of-the-art anatomy lab for students studying in the health care field. Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Jefferson College of Health Sciences and Radford University's Doctor of Physical Therapy program have all contributed to make it happen.
Students will use the anatomy lab to study cadavers and learn about the inner workings of the human body.

"The fact that we'll have 30 cadavers gives us the opportunity to also experience all of the things that happen to 30 different people in life," Dr. Cynda Johnson, president of VTC said. "Maybe they have an artificial knee, pacemakers, as well as all the kinds of diseases they may have."

Read the full article.

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National News

Rural Health 101 

By Erin Mahn - National Rural Health Association

Maggie Elehwany, National Rural Health Association vice president of government affairs, discussed the importance of rural health care during a Rural Health 101 policy briefing on Capitol Hill.  Elehwany spoke on the significant role rural providers play to the older, sicker, and poorer population they serve.

“Sixty-two million patients rely on rural providers,” Elehwany said. “These providers are facing unprecedented challenges from Washington, from challenges in Medicaid expansion, continued cuts in Medicare and continued threats of additional Medicare cuts.”

Elehwany urged the Senate to protect access to care for these vulnerable populations, and to save the 283 rural hospitals that are on the brink of closure. Already 53 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Without congressional intervention, layoffs, wage cuts, economic loss, reduced services and closed doors will occur in more rural communities across America.

Read the full article.

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Bucking the Crisis

By Katie Bo Williams - Healthcare Dive

Faith Community Hospital in Jacksboro, TX is a general medical and surgical hospital 25 miles away from its nearest competitor. As of 2010, the town had less than 5,000 residents, many of whom are on Medicare and Medicaid. Five years ago, many of these residents were migrating out of the Jack County seat to receive care, mostly as a result of a hospital with what CEO Frank Beaman described as a bad reputation for customer service. The aging facility badly needed to be replaced, but the hospital couldn't drum up the community support to pass a bond election.

Five years later, FCH is opening a brand-new 17-bed facility with a 15,000-square-foot on-site health clinic. The hospital is meeting federal incentive requirements: After three failed attempts with various vendors, the hospital earned $150,000 in Meaningful Use payments for attesting to Stage 2.

FCH is not the only rural hospital surviving in what is widely considered to be a untenable environment. In May, LifePoint Hospitals—now LifePoint Health—announced a 5% increase in profits in the first quarter of Q1. The rural hospital operator saw $13 million in first-quarter profits and expects to benefit by between $40 million and $50 million this year from healthcare reform. How are they doing it where other rural health providers are failing?

Read the full article.

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Expanding Opportunities

By Susan Hassmiller - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

There is nothing more reassuring than having a skilled professional in your community who can help you when you need medical care. Recent research has demonstrated that nurse practitioners are more likely than primary care physicians to practice in rural areas, and to treat Medicaid recipients and other vulnerable populations.

That’s why the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP, is working to remove outdated statutory barriers that prevent advanced practice nurses from practicing to the full extent of their education and training.

We know that empowering nurses, physician assistants, and other clinicians to increase their skills and serve more patients is key to building a Culture of Health in every community. Another innovation that shows similar potential to transform care for rural and underserved populations  is Project ECHO, at the University of New Mexico, which maximizes sharing of best-practice medical knowledge and expertise. The ECHO approach was started to bring the best of specialty care to people in remote New Mexico communities. It links community care providers with specialist teams at university medical centers to co-manage patients who have complex, chronic conditions.

Read the full article.

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Breadbasket Food Deserts

By Ryan Schuessler - Al Jazeera America

Spencer’s Market, Brewster’s only grocery store, had closed. Nobody left in town can quite remember when — sometime in the 1970s or ’80s. The building was turned into a saloon, which soon shut its doors as well.

These days, Roger Chilen and his wife have a garden where they grow food in the summer. They can and pickle produce for the winter, and she bakes bread. All the grocery stores in Blaine County had closed by the mid-1990s, locals say. Now the closest grocery store to Brewster is more than 40 miles away.

As the populations of places like Brewster and nearby Dunning dwindle and rural grocery stores close, vast stretches of rural America are becoming food deserts, defined in a rural context as living more than 10 miles from a grocery store. By one estimate from the Missouri-based Rural Sociological Society, nearly 98 percent of America’s food deserts are in nonmetropolitan areas, with huge areas of Nebraska, the Dakotas and Alaska falling under that definition. Many people of this part of Nebraska, like the Chilens, are self-sufficient, but rural food deserts pose a serious health risk to low-income and elderly residents, experts say.

Read the full article.

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Mark Your Calendar

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

June 24: What Research Infrastructure Do We Need to Reduce Suicidal Behavior - webinar
June 30: Call to Action: Healthcare as a Moral Imperative - Richmond
July 15-17: Rural Quality & Clinical Conference - Minneapolis, MN
July 20: Effective Business Models for Telehealth - webinar
August 24-27: Arthritis, AgrAbility, and Rural Health Conference - Knoxville, TN
September 29-30: Rural Health Clinic Conference - Kansas City, MO
September 30-October 2: Critical Access Hospital Conference - Kansas City, MO
October 13-14: VRHA Annual Conference - Staunton

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Public Health CME Credits from VDH
These online CME and CE courses on public health for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals discuss topics such as nutrition, child health, prevention and health promotion.

CDC’s New Oral Health Data Web Portal
The web portal:

  • offers enhanced capabilities for viewing state and national indicators of oral health and fluoridation status.
  • allows individuals to view and interact with data in tables, graphs, and maps and to export datasets.

Social Determinants of Health for Rural People
Visit this new guide to learn how income-level, educational attainment, race, and where you reside impact health. Find statistics and FAQs on the health inequities that rural residents experience. 

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Funding Opportunities

For funding opportunities without a specific deadline, please visit the VRHA Resources page

RWJF National Leadership Program Center: 2015 Call for Proposals
Proposal Deadline: July 29, 2015, 3:00 p.m. EDT
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is developing four new boundary-spanning leadership programs that reflect their vision to work with others to build a national Culture of Health. RWJF will select up to four national leadership program centers to receive a three-month planning grant to co-develop and prepare the launch of leadership program(s), with a maximum amount of $750,000 per award per program.

American Dental Association Semi-Annual Grant Program: Access to Care
Due: July 31, 2015  Award ceiling: $10,000
Awards funding to projects that improve access to oral health care. Examples include screening programs, treatment programs, and dental clinics within a community healthcare facility. 

Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children Access to Care Grants
Application deadline: Aug 3, 2015  Award ceiling: $20,000 per year
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry offers matching grants to support community-based initiatives that provide dental homes to children whose families cannot afford dental care. 

Infinite Hero Foundation
The mission of the Infinite Hero Foundation is to combat the most difficult front line issues – mental and physical – facing returning military heroes and their families. The Foundation provides grants of up to $100,000 to nonprofit organizations offering effective programs or treatments at no cost to active duty service members or veterans for service-related mental and physical injuries. Grants must be applied directly to program costs and cannot be used for fundraising or administrative overhead. Letters of interest are accepted on an ongoing basis and organizations that fit within the current funding criteria will be contacted to submit a formal grant application.

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