Rural and Community Matters Newsletter Summer 2019 EM

 Office of Health Care Access, Section of Rural and Community Health Systems, 
Division of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Rural and Community Matters

Quarterly - Summer 2019

Mission: Improve the health of Alaskans by addressing health system issues

Vision: Vibrant health system in Alaska


  • Community health improvement
  • Identify needs to promote healthcare system solutions
  • Quality improvement

What We Do: The Office of Healthcare Access coordinates programs that strengthen health care access with a focus on rural areas and underserved populations. We also conduct statewide health planning to help sustain organized and efficient health care delivery in Alaska.




Welcome to the Summer issue of the Rural and Community Matters

quarterly newsletter! Our goal is to share information

with health providers and communities.


SHARP-3: Alaska’s New Health Workforce Support-for-Service Option Addresses Alaska’s shortage of health care workers

The SHARP program has been improving the recruitment, retention and distribution of health professionals for Alaska since it was established in 2009. It is a public-private partnership between the Department of Health and Social Service and Healthcare Facilities (hospitals and clinics) administered by the Office of Health Care Access.

The SHARP program currently has two components, SHARP-1 and SHARP-2. SHARP-1 utilizes federal support and continues unchanged. SHARP-2 which utilized state funds will sunset June 30, 2019. The Alaska 2019 legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 93 in both the Senate and House which is based on SHARP program’s Advisory Council’s proposal to add a third program component, SHARP-3 that consists of:

(1) expanded loan repayment, (2) partnership funding, and (3) a standard administrative fee. The strategy is to expand practitioner and site eligibilities beyond the strictures of SHARP-1 and SHARP-2, and thereby increase the number and variety of health professionals who participate.  

SB-93 establishes a new workforce enhancement program, SHARP 3 to address Alaska’s shortage of health care workers. Through SHARP-3, healthcare professionals agree to work for health employers in exchange for repayment of student loans or other incentives. The purpose is improve healthcare access by increasing the recruitment and retention of practitioners. Employers fund the program without the need for any general state funds. SB-93 is on its way to the governor’s desk for signature, and is destined to have positive impacts on the health and well-being of Alaskans.

The three main elements of SHARP 3 are:

Element-1: Expanded Loan Repayment: SHARP-3 expands loan repayment eligibility to include (a) new practice settings (e.g. long-term care), (b) new occupations (e.g. hospitalists, facility leaders, specialists, allied health), (c) new employers (e.g., Banner, Providence), (d) new locations (e.g. beyond federally specified locations), and (e) new roles (e.g., healthcare faculty, health administrators). All candidates will be (a) selected by their employer, (b) apply through the regular SHARP process, (c) be formally recommended by Council, (d) sign SHARP’s standard service contract, and (e) fulfill quarterly requirements.

Element-2: Partnership Funding: Funding for loan repayment will be derived from two sources: (a) the employer, and (b) an associated contributor (e.g. 75 and 25 percent respectively). The later will be another entity such as a private foundation, trade association, government entity, community foundation, advocacy group, hospital foundation, university, or other. This will not require any funds from either federal HRSA or State General Fund

Element-3: Administration Fee: New ways to address program administration cost will be further explored. The reason is that new revenues for program administration are needed since traditional public sources are under increasing pressure. SHARP has grown substantially, and that growth is expected to continue.

For more information on all the SHARP programs contact Robert Sewell, Ph.D. Program Manager

Phone: 907-465-4065, email:

Highlights from Health Newsletters

Rural Health Information Hub introduces the new Rural Telehealth Toolkit

The Rural Health Information Hub launched their new Rural Telehealth Toolkit on June 5th with a Webinar highlighting Alaska's Rural Veterans Telehealth delivered Biofeedback Program as one of two program examples of innovative rural telehealth programs.

The new Telehealth Toolkit compiles evidence-based and promising models and resources to support organizations in identifying and implementing telehealth programs to address common challenges experienced in rural communities across the United States.

The Alaska program's PowerPoint presentation on the rural Telehealth Toolkit webinar page provides a detailed overview of the program approach, challenges, design, outcomes and lessons learned. It is also described in the  Module 2: Program Models to address common rural community health challenges  and Module 3: Program Clearinghouse an example of evidence-based and promising telehealth programs that have been implemented in rural communities.  

The Rural Telehealth Toolkit consists of 7 modules
Module 1: Introduction to Rural Telehealth
Module 2: Evidence-Based and Promising Models for Telehealth Programs
Module 3: Program Clearinghouse
Module 4: Implementation Strategies for Rural Community Telehealth Programs
Module 5: Evaluation Considerations for Telehealth Programs
Module 6: Sustainability of Rural Telehealth Programs
Module 7: Dissemination of Rural Telehealth Programs

Rural Health Hub relevant telehealth links:

ECHO 2019 ACT introduced 5.22.19 for program expansion: Schatz, Kaine, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Invest In Telehealth, Expand Health Care To Rural Areas s

Components of the Office of Healthcare Access