CommunityHealth IT, Inc. (CommHIT)at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida has received $1,545,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The funding for FY 2022 will support the Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program.
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The funding is part of HHS’ $60 million commitment to rural health workforce programs nationwide. The grants include $46 million from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to “expand health care capacity in rural and tribal communities,” according to the department’s announcement.
“Among the most important steps we can take to improve access to health care in rural communities, including access to behavioral health care, is to invest in growing the rural health care workforce,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson in the announcement. “Today’s announcements are another important part of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s strategy to advance health equity for the nearly 65 million people who call rural areas home.”
CommHIT was established in 2011 by Florida health and economic stakeholders, with the goal to “connect communities to improve community health and medical community financial viability” through various initiatives. These include a community-based health information exchange, a reimbursement program for IT-related health facility costs, and workforce development programs.
The $1.5 million grant from HHS will fall under the latter track, going towards the Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program (RPHWTNP). A nationwide health worker shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is driving demand to fill vacant positions. According to HHS, demand will rise for the following health workers by 2030:
- 11% increase in demand for CHWs (to 67,560)
- 17% increase in demand for EMTs and paramedics (to 305,770)
- 30% increase in demand for respiratory therapists (to 144,100)
The RPHWTNP program will connect awardees, such as CommHIT, to technical assistance providers for a 3-year period. The program will help train health workers to fill in-demand positions in rural areas, focusing on program components such as the following:
- Community Health Support
- Health IT and/or Telehealth Technical Support
- Community Para-Medicine
- Case Management Staff and/or Respiratory Therapists
CommHIT was one of the organizations awarded the most funding for the RPHWTNP. In total, 31 public, private, and non-profit organizations were awarded funding for the program.