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Rural Health Clinics and their Participation in Federal COVID-19 Programs

Rural Health Clinics and their Participation in Federal COVID-19 Programs

By Mo Sullivan, Technical Assistance Specialist, National Association of Rural Health Clinics

The federal government continuously supports Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) by making available various funding and supply programs. Your future career at an RHC may be enhanced through usage of these programs!

In particular, HRSA has implemented several COVID-19 programs to support RHC operations during the pandemic. These programs have provided a variety of funding allocations and COVID-19 supplies necessary for RHCs as they continue to serve their communities. These programs have decreased burden on RHC staff battling the pandemic. 

The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), through a cooperative agreement with HRSA, provides technical assistance on many RHC COVID-19 programs. There are five main programs that HRSA implemented:

  • RHC COVID-19 Therapeutics Program
  • RHC COVID-19 Testing Supply Program
  • RHC COVID-19 Testing/ Testing & Mitigation Programs
  • RHC Vaccine Confidence Program
  • RHC COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program

The newest of the programs, the RHC COVID-19 Therapeutics Program, gives RHCs access to COVID-19 antivirals (Paxlovid and Lagevrio (molnupiravir) at no cost to the patient or provider. RHCs who have a formal agreement with an on-site or off-site pharmacy may order free therapeutics on behalf of the pharmacy to formally participate in the ASPR Test-to-Treat Program. Once enrolled, providers will gain access to an online ordering system where they can place orders weekly or as needed.

The RHC COVID-19 Testing Supply Program also gives RHCs access to COVID-19 supplies at no cost to the patient or provider. These supplies include COVID-19 at-home test kits and point-of-care testing supplies. Providers may place orders online weekly and may share these supplies with their community members (schools, churches etc.). 

The RHC COVID-19 Testing Program allocated approximately $49K to all eligible CMS-certified RHCs at the start of the pandemic. These funds could be spent on various COVID-19 testing-related expenses. In 2021, another round of these funds was automatically awarded to eligible CMS-certified RHCs under the RHC COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program at $100K per RHC. The uses for these funds broadened to include mitigation-related uses, such as retrofitting spaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

RHC Vaccine Confidence Grantees received funding to decrease vaccine hesitancy in their communities. The grant was able to cover expenses related to vaccine advocacy and education for any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, RHCs can still enroll in the RHC Vaccine Distribution program to receive COVID-19 vaccines shipped directly to their clinics for free!

These federal programs ensure RHCs have complete access to COVID-19 testing, prevention, and treatments as we tackle the ongoing pandemic, together. 

At NARHC, we focus our efforts based on the current needs of the RHC community. We listen to community members to discover which issues matter most to them. Regarding these COVID-19 programs, we have been directly speaking with RHCs utilizing these programs to provide feedback for the federal government. Visit our Facebook page to watch interviews with RHCs under our “RHC Spotlights” posts to hear real RHC experiences with the COVID-19 programs!

And lastly, don’t forget to stop by the COVID-19 Technical Assistance table at the 3RNET Annual Conference to learn more about these programs and other benefits of working in RHCs! We can’t wait to meet you in Manchester.