The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that it had awarded $ 16.3 million in grant funding to enhance telehealth infrastructure and the capacity of reproductive health clinics throughout the country.
HHS used funds available through the American Rescue Plan to award the money to 31 Title X family planning grantees for a 12-month project period starting on May 15, the agency said.
“Expanding telehealth at our nation’s Title X family planning clinics will help ensure all women and families have equitable access to this essential care,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
“Across the nation we are seeing attacks on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, and through these funds and other HHS efforts we can ensure that we’re able to provide this care that so many across the country needs,” he continued.
WHY IT MATTERS
Title X family planning clinics provide a broad range of reproductive and preventive health services to more than 190 million low-income or uninsured people, including breast and cervical cancer screening, contraceptive counseling and care and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
HHS says the clinics will be able to use the new funding to expand their telehealth capacity – and, in turn, services throughout the community.
“As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, family planning clinics have already augmented the use of telehealth,” Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine said in a statement.
“These awards will help programs accelerate telehealth even more across the communities receiving awards,” she continued.
The 31 grantees are located in 26 states, along with the US Virgin Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. The grants range from $ 72,144 to $ 700,000, with an average allocation of $ 527,522.
THE LARGER TREND
HHS announced the availability of funding in November 2021.
At that point, the agency said it planned to put $ 35 million toward telehealth for Title X clinics; representatives did not respond to requests for comment by press time about whether the agency planned to issue any more awards to address the difference in total funding.
As Becerra referenced, the news of the funding also comes amidst ramped-up attacks on reproductive healthcare – specifically, abortion rights and access. Although Title X funds cannot be used to pay for abortion services, they can be co-located with federally funded sites.
Just this month, the state of Tennessee criminalized abortion via telehealth, following news of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft forecasting the highest court’s plan to overturn Roe v. Wade.
ON THE RECORD
“This opportunity to sustain investments in telehealth for the Title X program helps open the door to high-quality family planning services for even more clients,” said HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs Jessica Swafford Marcella in a statement.
Kat Jercich is the senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.