$150M coming for community health centers, rural physicians

HHS announces funding for programs in underserved, rural areas

Almost $150 million in federal investments will help primary care programs around the country, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) includes $90 million for almost 1,400 community health centers to advance health equity through better data collection and reporting. Meanwhile, another $60 million will add to the workforce and improve quality health care in rural communities, according to HHS, which announced the programs on Aug. 8. The grants follow an announcement this summer of $155 million to support 72 teaching health centers for primary care medical and dental residency programs.

Patient data

HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the data modernization effort to identify and respond to specific needs of patients and communities. The work will help COVID-19 responses and prepare for future public health emergencies.

“HRSA's initiative is designed to enable health centers to have better data on both patient health status and social determinants of health,” the HHS summary said. “With better information, programs can tailor their efforts to improve health outcomes and advance health equity by more precisely targeting the needs of specific communities or patients, particularly as part of the public health emergency response.”

There are almost 1,400 HRSA-funded community health centers offering primary care, including medical, dental and behavioral health services to more than 30 million patients a year in underserved communities, according to HHS.

"Time and again, the COVID pandemic has demonstrated the vital role of trusted community leaders in delivering health care services," HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in the HHS announcement. "Health centers are that trusted resource in the highest risk and hardest hit communities in the country. As we recognize the heroic work of the frontline health care workers who make health centers what they are, today we also are investing in the tools they need to help them continue to best serve their communities."

Rural communities

HRSA will administer almost $60 million for patient health in rural communities; the funding includes $46 million from ARPA, according to HHS.

Programs and amounts include:

The Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program, $46 million to 31 community-based organizations to expand public health clinical and operational capacity through workforce development. A technical assistance provider was awarded $500,000 to help the networks develop formal training and certification programs.

The Rural Residency Planning and Development Program, $9.7 million to 13 organizations to establish new rural residency programs in rural communities to train resident physicians in rural clinical settings.

The Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Program, $2.9 million to 15 community-based organizations improve patient health outcomes and quality and delivery of care in rural counties.

The Rural Veterans Health Access Program, about $1 million to 3 organizations to improve access to health care for veterans in rural areas. The program is a collaboration between HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and the Veterans Health Administration (VA) to strengthen partnerships between rural health providers and the VA system.