New York State Department of Health Recognizes National Rural Health Day

Department Highlights Partnerships to Ensure Access to Health Services, Medications and Transportation in Rural Communities

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 16, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes National Rural Health Day by highlighting the Department's work to ensure access to equitable, affordable, and coordinated health care in rural communities across New York.

"The Department continues to focus on ensuring our rural communities have access to critical health care services, including transportation and emergency medical services," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Access to health care is vital for all New Yorkers, and the Department is committed to ensuring quality health services are available to everyone, no matter where they live."

The Department's Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health supports rural health networks within the State, to ensure health care providers work together to develop comprehensive, cost-effective health care systems serving rural areas. The Office coordinates state-funded competitive grants that address the individual needs of communities as identified by service providers in those communities, including county and local health departments, offices for the aging, and community partners.

Currently, the Department provides grants to 31 rural health networks. The health networks provide innovative, locally driven, and evidence-based solutions for their communities focused on a range of issues including, transportation, chronic disease management, workforce, food insecurity, substance abuse overdose prevention, access to health insurance and prescription medications, health literacy, oral health, tobacco cessation, and suicide prevention.

Funding is also provided to 44 rural hospitals through the Rural Health Care Access Development that funds activities such as equipment purchases, health information technology, facility renovations, provider recruitment, and service development.

The State's Medicaid program supports Critical Access and Sole Community Hospitals throughout the State with enhanced Medicaid rates for outpatient services under the federally approved Directed Payment Template program.

Additionally, the Department's Office of Health Insurance Programs oversees the Medicaid Transportation program to ensure Medicaid members can get to and from medical appointments at no cost. The Department also collaborates with the federal Veteran's Health Administration (VA) and local Area Agencies on Aging to make referrals to programs, including transportation, to those who quality for VA services.

The Department worked with Governor Hochul and both houses of the New York State Legislature to extend the Community Paramedicine programs authorized under the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). This program will allow any of the approximately 50 community paramedicine programs approved during the PHE to continue to provide homebound vaccinations, participate as part of community care bringing additional medical services to the State's most rural communities, and provide improved access to care. In addition, the Rural Health Ambulance Task Force is working on a white paper for the Governor's office and legislature that will look at strengthening Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the 43 rural counties of New York State and what additional medical services can be provided.

The FY2023 Enacted Budget changed New York State Public Health Law Article 28 to allow general hospitals to seek designation as a new federal category called "Rural Emergency Hospitals (REH)." REHs are eligible for significant new federal funds. The new law also adds requirements that the hospital notify locally interested parties, such as local elected leaders and unions, when they seek REH status.

The Charles D. Cooke Office of Rural Health was recently recognized for their work with Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) as a Top 10 Performing State for the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project, which works to improve quality in CAHs. The top 10 performing states achieved the highest reporting rates and levels of improvement in CAHs over the past 12 months.