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HRSA Administrator Addresses Rural Needs

Dr. George Sigounas, HRSA Administrator, addressed a joint meeting on October 11 of Social Security, Housing and Agriculture Department officials

HRSA's Dr. George Sigounas addressed a joint meeting last month of Social Security, Housing and Agriculture Department officials
seeking to better coordinate efforts to serve people with disabilities and older adults living in rural America.

Dr. Sigounas noted that HRSA is at the leading edge of the Administration's drive to increase the rural healthcare workforce, provide opioid treatment in hard hit communities with scarce healthcare and extend telehealth care delivery to remote regions of the country.


"The goals you have set for this meeting resonate with me. I came to HRSA in May of 2017 with a vision for increased collaboration and efficiency in order to increase access to quality health care services for the underserved populations that HRSA serves.

HRSA is achieving that vision and closely aligning its efforts with HHS' four priorities:

  • Addressing the opioid crisis;
  • Bringing down the high price of prescription drugs;
  • Increasing the affordability and accessibility of health insurance; and
  • Shifting our healthcare system in a value-based direction.

In particular, HRSA is committed to helping rural communities struggling with opioid addiction.

These kinds of partnerships do not happen without focused effort. As leaders in your fields and agencies, I challenge you to be intentional about recognizing and seizing opportunities to strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones. The rural communities and populations we are here to discuss will need that kind of effort to address the critical challenges they face.

HRSA is focused on several of these challenges in many of our programs:

First, we are looking closely at issues around life expectancy and mortality in rural communities. We know there are several factors contributing to these issues. Chronic disease, drug use, and limited access to basic health services are factors HRSA addresses. But we recognize that poverty and other adverse community conditions also negatively influence health.

We also continue to monitor the rate of hospital closings in rural communities. Sixty-four rural hospitals have closed between 2013 and 2017, more than twice as many as the previous 5-year period.

Furthermore, we recognize that telehealth plays a vital role in enhancing the reach of the health workforce in places where shortages limit access to care. HRSA currently has more than 1,000 active awards across our programs that include a telehealth component. And we are working to further expand the use of telehealth in these high need areas."

CDR Heather Dimeris, HRSA's Federal Office or Rural Health Policy

Deputy Associate Administrator of HRSA's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy CDR Heather Dimeris provided an overview of how agency programs intersect with the needs of rural dwellers.

"We are leading the Department's efforts to address the behavioral health workforce shortages across the nation," Dr. Sigounas continued. "This includes funding for telehealth networks to increase access to behavioral health services in rural communities and establish an evidence base for assessing the effectiveness of tele-behavioral health care.

We are also continuing our multi-year Rural Communities Opioid Response initiative to expand access to substance use disorder treatment and mental health services in rural communities.

Today, I encourage you to learn from each other about your specific areas of expertise as they relate to the critical challenges facing rural communities. I also challenge you to think creatively about how we can all work together to solve the pressing issues facing older adults and people with disabilities in rural communities.

Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you today. And thank you again to our partners in HHS, HUD, and USDA for being committed to cross-department collaboration."

Date Last Reviewed:  November 2018