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DHHS Marks 40th Anniversary of Office of Rural Health

Holshouser portrait unveiled

For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Contact: news@dhhs.nc.gov
              919-855-4840

Raleigh, N.C. - Governor Pat McCroy has proclaimed today as Rural Health Day in North Carolina, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Rural Health and Community Care. Former governor James Holshouser created the office in 1973 to assist underserved communities by creating and supporting a network of rural health centers across the state. Today, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos helped to unveil a portrait of the late Governor Holshouser as part of the anniversary celebration. Holshouser's daughter, Ginny Holshouser Mills, took part in the celebration.

"Governor Holshouser was a visionary and compassionate leader who was committed to improving the lives of his fellow North Carolinians," said Governor McCrory. "The Office of Rural Health was groundbreaking at its inception. Over its 40-year history, it has continued to be a national model of innovation and caring."

The original mission of the Office of Rural Health was to establish a network of rural health centers in our state. Today, as the Office of Rural Health and Community Care (ORHCC), it serves citizens in all 100 counties in the state by recruiting medical, dental and psychiatric providers to medically underserved areas; helping to secure free and low-cost medications for patients who cannot afford them; and coordinating grants to safety net organizations that increase access to preventive and primary care services for uninsured or medically indigent populations.

Beginning in January 2014, the Office also will manage the implementation of the Governor's Statewide Telepsychiatry Initiative to bring psychiatric assessment and treatment services to hospital emergency departments struggling with a lack of available mental health practitioners.

"The Office of Rural Health and Community Care has been a longtime advocate for the concept of caring for the whole person- physically and emotionally," said Secretary Wos. "Through its support of primary care providers, mental health practitioners and dental health professionals, residents in even the most rural areas of our state have benefited from an improved quality of life."

The office has recruited an average of 149 health professionals to chronically underserved areas of the state for each of the past six years; last year, recruitment efforts attracted a record 160 providers to the state.

Earlier this year, the ORHCC received a $773,728 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to augment state funding to provide free and/or low-cost prescription drugs in rural counties over a 12 month period. Through the Medication Assistance program, the office will help to provide approximately $22 million in medication to residents in at least 18 of the state's most economically distressed counties.

A hallmark of the ORHCC is its support of innovative demonstration projects to improve health care delivery. It was one of 18 state offices of rural health to receive a quality demonstration grant from the federal Children's health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, also known as CHIPRA. Through this funding, the office is evaluating medical home models to reduce costs and demonstrate the positive impact of electronic health records.

Today's celebration coincides with National Rural Health Day. The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH ) established the day in 2011 to showcase rural America and to increase awareness of rural health-related issues. To view the proclamation for Rural Health Day in North Carolina, click here.

Additional information about the DHHS Office of Rural Health and Community Care is at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/orhcc/. To learn more about NOSORH, visit www.nosorh.org. National Rural Health Day information is available at celebratepowerofrural.org.

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