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State Office of Rural Health (SORH)
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State Office of Rural Health (SORH)
The State Office of Rural Health (SORH) encompasses programs that serve to strengthen health care delivery systems and improve health care access in rural areas of Ohio. The overview covers the goals and functions of SORH programs including the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex) and the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP).

The State Office of Rural Health (SORH) encompasses programs that serve to strengthen health care delivery systems and improve health care access in rural areas of Ohio.  These programs include the the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex), and the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP).  

The goal of the SORH is to help strengthen rural health care delivery systems by creating a focal point for coordinating rural health initiatives statewide. Since its inception in 1991, the Ohio SORH has worked to improve rural health care delivery systems through programs and activities related to its five essential functions.  

Functions

The five essential functions of the SORH are to serve rural populations in Ohio by:

  • Collecting and disseminating rural health information 
  • Coordinating resources and activities statewide
  • Providing technical assistance to meet rural community health needs
  • Encouraging recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural areas
  • Strengthening state and federal partnerships

The SORH has leveraged several significant partnerships locally, statewide, and nationally in its efforts to improve rural health care delivery systems.  SORH staff plan and implement various workshops, conferences, and meetings, as well as provide resources and technical assistance to rural communities working to enhance existing systems of care. 

Ohio Rural Health Improvement Plan

In 2017, a team led by the Appalachian Rural Health Institute (ARHI) at Ohio University began the Ohio Rural Health Improvement Process. Funded by grants from the Ohio Department of Health’s State Office of Rural Health, the National Rural Health Association, and several local organizations, the objective of this project was to develop a plan for addressing rural health in Ohio. Out of this project, the Ohio Rural Health Association (ORHA) was formed. ORHA and partners published the Ohio Rural Health Improvement Plan in June 2021.

View the plan on the ORHA webpage.

What is Rural?

Depending upon the program and agency, various definitions of rural exist. For grant programs from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), all counties that are not part of a metropolitan area are considered rural by definition. In metropolitan counties, Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) Codes define the rural areas eligible for the various FORHP grant programs. For grant programs from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rural areas are located outside of a U.S. Census Bureau Urbanized Area. The Census Bureau defines an urbanized area as an urban area of 50,000 or more people.

The "Am I Rural?" tool from the Rural Health Information Hub is helpful to determine whether your specific location is considered rural based on various definitions.

The SORH does not in any way limit our technical assistance or services to just those counties or communities that meet the FORHP’s definition of rural.

Rural Health Clinics

A rural health clinic (RHC) is a facility located in a rural area designated as a shortage area (personal health services or primary medical manpower) and is neither a rehabilitation agency nor a facility primarily for care and treatment of mental diseases. A physician on the clinic’s staff must provide the RHC’s medical direction. Other staffing requirements pertain to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives. Rural health clinics are not licensed in Ohio. Federal standards for Medicare certification are found at 42 CFR Part 491, Subpart A. RHCs are not currently subject to an annual survey visit, but are surveyed consistent with a percentage of total state universe as set by the Medicare budget each Federal Fiscal Year.

Please see the Governor's Certified Shortage Area for RHCs Web page for information regarding RHC development.