Conference Highlights

Many Thanks!


A big thank you to our Platinum Sponsor United Healthcare, and our Conference Sponsors and Co-Sponsors:

And thank you to presenters, moderators, and attendees for supporting this year's event. See you at Old Kinderhook in 2022!


The Landscape of Rural Health


National Rural Health Association (NRHA) Chief Executive Officer Brock Slabach, MPH, FACHE, delivered Wednesday’s keynote address, “The Landscape of Rural Health.” In it, he addressed unprecedented challenges to a fragile rural health safety net; the pandemic’s impact; rural health inequities and a renewed focus on racial justice; and efforts to remain innovative amidst these challenges.

This landscape is accentuated by a new presidential administration and a season of unparalleled funding to vaccinate against COVID-19, tackle pronounced vaccine hesitancy, address systemic workforce shortages, rural provider closures, and broadband connectivity, among other challenges.

As rural health care’s fragility magnifies against the backdrop of this pandemic, the NRHA has remained steadfast in its advocacy for health policy issues, especially legislation that centers health equity for 2.2 million rural Missourians. Among NRHA’s policy agenda is:

  • Accountable Care in Rural America Act (HR 3746)
  • Assuring Access to 340B Drug Pricing Program (S773)
  • Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HR 2255/S 1024)
  • Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act (S 1988)
  • Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S 834/HR 2267)
  • Rural America Health Corps Act (S 924/HR 2130)
  • Rural Hospital Support Act (HR 1887)
Become a Rural Health Advocate

Nursing Shortages Go Way Beyond Headcount


When it comes to nursing shortages, it does in fact go way beyond headcount. Ron Hoppe, international recruiter, and immigration professional, presented the problem and a few solutions during a Wednesday (Aug. 18) session, “Nursing Shortages Go Way Beyond Headcount.” The presentation detailed, among many things, that headcount is only one factor. Hoppe delivered a simple equation to drive this point further: an increasing number of novice RNs matriculating through the health care pipeline, plus acuity increases of in-patient care (which decreases hospital stays), plus the growing importance of EHRs equals what he calls the experience-complexity gap.

Hoppe offers a variety of strategies to address nursing shortages and inherent experience gaps. One strategy he mentions is taking an international approach to recruitment efforts.

Mobility Management: A Collaborative Solution for a Complex Issue

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Although Missouri’s infrastructure is ranked seventh in the nation, the state is 45th in revenue per mile. The result is transportation gaps throughout all communities – rural, suburban, and urban alike. Lack of access to transportation is a barrier to the fullness of life and goes beyond access to medical appointments.

Mobility management, which has no singular definition, is a coordinated, collaborative, and liberated approach to equitable transportation. Truly equitable transportation also includes reliable and affordable access to work, social events, required appointments (such as court dates), grocery stores and pharmacies, and more.

During “Mobility Management: A Collaborative Solution for a Complex Issue,” a session at the MRHA Get Link’d 2021 Conference, MRHA’s Mary Gordon and MU Extension’s Sherry McDonald detailed their creation of the Mobility Management Certification Program. The self-guided training prepares community leaders, health care workers, advocates, and more to be champions of transportation and find collaborative solutions in their area.

Transportation and its Impact on the

Social Determinants of Health


West Central Missouri Community Action Agency (WCMCAA) received a one-year HRSA grant to identify inequities and found barriers not only affecting access to health care, a prevalent issue in rural areas, but inequities across all facets of transportation. In collaboration with MRHA, WCMCAA invested in HealthTran in 2020 and began delivering rides in February 2021.

During the MRHA Get Link’d 2021 Conference, WCMCAA provided an overview of their successes with HealthTran. Free rides from friendly volunteer drivers not only bridge the transportation gap, but also build a sense of community during a time of overwhelming social isolation.

Learn More about HealthTran

Community Supports for People Impacted by Dementia


In Missouri in 2020, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia provided over 292 million hours of unpaid care. Alzheimer’s caregivers often bear the financial and emotional weight of the changes that accompany the progressive brain disease, causing chronic stress which can impact one’s physical health and wellbeing.

The Missouri Rural Health Association (MRHA), Memory Care Home Solutions (MCHS), and the Greater Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association have partnered to deliver the Customized Caregiver Training and Relief Program (CCTRP). Funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, this free program offers two tracks: a training program offering a customized blueprint for care, and a relief program offering financial reimbursement for dementia-related care costs.

During a breakout session at the MRHA Get Link’d 2021 Conference, program partners detailed the warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s, an overview of changes that will occur, and details about CCTRP.

Enroll Today

Gun Violence Prevention & The Safer Homes Collaborative (SHC)

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The burden of firearm deaths in Missouri is severe, as it places 4th highest in the nation for deaths by firearm, with a majority of those deaths being suicides, not homicides. 

While research has proven that having a firearm in the house greatly increases risks of harm, over 70% of rural Missouri households are reported to have a gun in their household, with many who do not believe in the risks these pose to suicidal actions (69%). 

Data gathered by the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH), in partnership with The Safer Homes Collaborative (SHC), exposed these alarming statistics and created a framework for initiatives and active community support in addressing this tragedy.

During the #GetLinkd 2021 #MRHA Conference, Jessi LaRose, MPH, and Katie Ellison, MA, detailed the Safer Homes Collaborative’s Gun Project, which works to engage and educate Missourians and local gun shop owners on the risks and best practices in #gunsafety at home.

This initiative is about safety, not politics, as they are not anti-gun. The SHC builds relationships with shop owners and champions those involved in the gun community to lend their voices. They offer toolkits, education on access to lethal means, and suicide prevention advocacy.

They have reached over 20,000 people since they began a couple years ago.

Learn More about SHC

CALM & Suicide Prevention: Conversations on Access to Lethal Means

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"Why Should We Talk About Suicide?"

That was the leading question presenter Katie Ellison, MA, posed during her session on the ‘Conversations on Access to Lethal Means’ (C.A.L.M.) workshop and initiative at the MRHA #GetLinkd 2021 conference.

C.A.L.M. educates participants on early warning signs and risk factors for suicide and breaks down the framework for reducing lethal means. Perhaps most notably, this initiative helps you become more comfortable having these conversations about suicide prevention and assessing if someone has access to lethal means.

Ellison stressed the importance of prevention and intervention and how non-lethal means offer larger windows of prevention because suicidal thoughts often come and go. If there’s a greater distance between a victim and a lethal weapon, there’s a greater chance of intervening before it’s too late.

Learn More about C.A.L.M.

Empowering Health Leaders in Expanding Connectivity


It’s 2021, everyone in the U.S. has internet access. Right?

Wrong -- especially for Missourians, who fall in the bottom 5 ranks for access to low-cost internet.

This lack of broadband infrastructure and access goes far beyond missing out on the newest episodes of your favorite show. Restricted access to WiFi creates troubling barriers for healthcare providers and education systems alike.

At the #GetLinkd 2021 #MRHA Conference, Timothy Arbeiter discussed these concerns and how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns exposed and magnified these broadband deficiencies.

Some recent initiatives have addressed these immediate needs such as the State CARES Act Program and State Broadband Grant Program. However, the funding for these programs came from government #COVID relief bills and isn’t currently sustainable.

Now is the time to act on this framework and build towards a healthier, more connected community.

Broadband in Missouri

COVID Vaccination Efforts in Rural Southeastern Missouri

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Sheer tenacity, collaboration, and the will to keep a community safe drive COVID-19 vaccine efforts in Mississippi County, which has a population of about 14,000. The #GetLinkd 2021 MRHA Conference included a session on Thursday (Aug. 19) called, “COVID Vaccination Efforts in Rural Southeastern Missouri.”

The session was led by Richard Logan, Pharm. D., owner of L&S Pharmacy in Charleston, Mo. Logan, as well as the county health department, county government, local pharmacies, volunteers, and many others all committed to do what was needed to get shots in arms. By working together, they leveraged civic events, popup clinics, and house-call clinics to get folks vaccinated.

Logan’s no-holds-barred approach, even to the extent of preaching to a Southeastern Missouri congregation on a Sunday morning, continues to be instrumental in raising vaccine rates in an area that remains vaccine hesitant. As of mid-August, Mississippi County’s vaccine rate was 32%., but Logan will tell you that he’s not finished yet.

Find a Vaccine Near You

Where It Hurts: Telling the Rural Health Story


The MRHA Get Link’d 2021 Conference closed with a presentation titled, “Where It Hurts: Telling the Rural Health Story,” by Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble. Following the closing of a much-needed hospital in rural Kansas, near her own childhood home, Tribble documented the stories of community residents impacted through a personal, powerful, and emotional podcast series titled “Where It Hurts.”

Through interviews, 911 calls, and personal stories, Tribble highlighted gut-wrenching realities about the problems faced in rural areas and the resulting harm, paired with her own grappling with grief. “If we can bring this to the attention of people who have never been in a rural area, or don’t have a reason to care about rural issues, it helps create empathy,” Tribble said about the experience and the many tears involved.

Listen to the Podcast Series

Thank you to our sponsors, presenters, moderators, and attendees!

Look out for our post-conference editorial series covering these session highlights.

MRHA and Partners Offer Free Rides to COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments in 12 Rural Missouri Counties!

Download Details

Special thanks to Bates County Transport, New Growth Women's Business Center, Own My Own, Inc., and West Central Missouri Community Action Agency.

COVID-19 Updates

FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine

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Approval Signifies Key Achievement for Public Health

On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir'-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

"The FDA's approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA's rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product," said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. "While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today's milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S." 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

Additional Resources:

Read the Press Release


  • Delta is currently the predominant strain of the virus in the United States.
  • It is 2x more contagious than previous variants.
  • It may cause more severe illness than previous strains.
  • Unvaccinated people are the most at risk.

Stay up to date on the science behind the Delta variant.

In Missouri, the highly infectious Delta is causing more than 96% of new cases, the data shows.

The Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of new coronavirus infections in Kansas, Arkansas, Connecticut, and Missouri, according to data compiled by Scripps Research's Outbreak.info, which is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Read More

Program Offers Relief and Respite for Dementia Caregivers


As of 2020, over 100,000 individuals over age 65 in Missouri are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. This number is expected to increase to an estimated 130,000 within the next five years.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death. The disease directly impacts the number of hospitalizations and ER visits we see as well as raises the cost of Medicaid. Data from 2018 showed 1,530 emergency department visits per 1,000 people with dementia. Dementia patients also saw a hospital readmission rate of 22.6%. In 2020, the Medicaid costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s grew to $973 million – a number expected to increase 16.8% by 2025.

Possibly most affected are the 194,000 caregivers – usually a family member, friend, or close acquaintance who unknowingly take on the emotional and financial burdens associated with dementia. To keep up with around-the-clock care, caregivers may sacrifice hours at work, opportunities for traveling positions, and even promotions. 

In 2020, Missouri caregivers provided over 292 million hours of unpaid care, despite 64.1% having chronic health conditions of their own.

In an effort to combat these statistics, the Missouri Rural Health Association has partnered with Memory Care Home Solutions and Alzheimer's Association Greater Missouri Chapter to deliver the Customized Caregiver Training and Relief Program (CCTRP). The program incorporates two tracks: educational training and financial relief.

Caregiver Training Program delivered by Memory Care Home Solutions

Training includes:

  • In-home assessments for individuals with dementia to identify unmet needs and develop a customized training plan for the caregiver.
  • Training materials and resources to help modify activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Follow-up calls and visits to assess the customized plan and provide support as needed.
  • Assistive safety devices.
  • Referrals to other community support services and resources as needed.

Enrollment begins with a pre-screening call with a MCHS intake specialist, 314.645.6247.

Caregiver Relief Program delivered by Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter

This program helps caregivers navigate the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia and also reimburses caregivers up to $700 for the following respite-related services:

  • Assessments and care coordination
  • Adult day care
  • In-home Care
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Safety and supportive programs
  • Education programs
  • Counseling services

Enrollment in the Caregiver Relief Program begins with a call to the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) to set up a free Care Consultation.

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Stay tuned for an upcoming editorial on this program featuring Get Link'd Conference speakers Amy Sobrino from Memory Care Home Solutions and Ben Molina from the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter.

Learn More and Enroll

Emergency Regulation Will Require COVID-19 Vaccination for Nursing Home Staff

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is developing an emergency regulation requiring staff vaccinations within the nation's more than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid participating nursing homes. This new requirement is a key component of protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents and staff by ensuring that all nursing home staff receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Over the past several months, millions of vaccinations have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and these vaccines have shown to help prevent COVID-19 and have proven to be effective against the Delta variant. 

Learn More


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2021 Annual Missouri Association of Rural Health Clinics Fall Conference

September 15-16

Learn more.

2021 19th Annual Rural Health Clinic Conference

September 21-22

Learn more.

2021 20th Annual Critical Access Hospital Conference

September 22-24

Learn more.

More Upcoming Missouri Events

Funding Opportunities

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Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts: Grants Engaging Family and Communities

Apply by September 20


OMH: Challenge to Reduce HIV Stigma and Disparities

Apply by September 23

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NIH Researching the Role of Work in Health Disparities

Apply by October 5

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USDA Emergency Rural Health Care Grants

Apply by October 12


FCC Emergency Broadband for Individuals and Households


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CFPB Rental Assistance Finder


September is Suicide Prevention Month

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All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.

Get Involved
Get Help

Suicide Prevention Month:

Upcoming Webinar Series

  • New Mothers in Crisis: Research Findings and a Mother’s Personal Story, September 1, 11 AM - 1 PM (CT)
  • Working to Break the Lethal Connection Between Substance Abuse and Suicide, September 8, 11 AM - 1 PM (CT)
  • Zero Suicide in Action, September 15, 11 AM - 1 PM (CT)
  • Suicide Prevention in Education: Higher Education and Gifted Students, September 22, 11 AM - 1 PM
Register Today

Rural Health News

Biden Administration Invests Over $19 Million to Expand Telehealth Nationwide and Improve Health in Rural, Other Underserved Communities (from HHS) 

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On August 18, the Biden Administration announced investments that will strengthen telehealth services in rural and underserved communities and expand telehealth innovation and quality nationwide. These investments, which total over $19 million, are being distributed to 36 award recipients through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Read the Full Press Release

Working on improving access to health care?

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