Rural Health Centers

Office of Rural Health - Rural Health Operations

The core belief guiding the Office since its inception is “If improvement in [health] care or service is the goal, then those who are responsible for making it happen must have ownership of the improvement process.” This core belief is put into practice through a state/local partnership approach to projects and a focus on community investment as the cornerstone of all improvement strategies.1 
Recognizing the needs for access to healthcare as the demographics of NC as well as access points change is invaluable to incubating and supporting the growth of access points for rural NC. Distribution of primary care providers in North Carolina has historically been skewed toward cities and larger towns.  Rural residents face transportation issues and often find accessing primary care services difficult. ORH supports equitable access to health in rural and underserved communities.
To achieve its mission, Rural Health Operations seeks to work collaboratively with communities to provide high quality, innovative, accessible, cost effective services that support the maintenance and growth of the State’s safety net in rural and underserved areas.

Rural Health Center Program

ORH was instrumental in the creation of this network of community-owned, non-profit health centers that serve vulnerable populations. Without support from ORH, many patients would lose local access to quality primary healthcare. This effort greatly decreases patient dependency on emergency departments, which carries a much greater cost. ORH supports State-Designated Rural Health Center grantees through funding, technical assistance and training.

State-Designated Rural Health Centers offer high quality primary health care services to all residents.

  • Rural Health Centers are located in rural communities that are medically underserved.
  • All Rural Health Centers accept Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.
  • The organization operating the Rural Health Center is a 501(c) 3 non-profit community owned organization.
  • The Rural Health Center administers the Office of Rural Health’s (ORH) Medical Access Plan (MAP) to uninsured individuals in the service area who meet certain criteria.
  • MAP eligibility is based on income
  • MAP patients pay a co-payment and ORH pays the difference for each office visit up to $100

The NC designation in the past was based on a number of factors - including demonstrated need based on a community health needs assessment, community request and support. There are 13 primary care sites that are designated as State Designated Rural Health Centers in North Carolina. The Office is currently evaluating the state designation process and will update the website when applications are accepted.
Grant opportunities available to current state designated sites: Rural Health MAP, Behavioral Health, Project Funds, Capital Projects

Rural Health Centers Program Profile

The NC Office of Rural Health supported 14 organizations across all rural areas of the state in SFY 2019

Current ORH Grant Opportunities

Technical Assistance & Training

The Rural Health Operations Team works to connect organizations and rural primary healthcare sites to resources to increase access to care, coordinate existing services, support quality clinical care and accomplish outcomes utilizing standard processes with the goal of building strong, coordinated networks in communities while avoiding duplication of efforts. The Rural Health Operations team is available to assist with inquiries regarding the following:

  • Healthy Opportunities
  • Telehealth
  • Clinical Quality
  • EHR Utilization
  • Chronic Care Management
  • Requirements of a State Designated Rural Health Center and interest in applying for Rural Health Center funds.

2020 Virtual Rural Primary Care Conference

Topics include value-based care, benchmarking for success, COVID-19 and Community Health Workers, CARES Act initiatives, telehealth, and Medicaid transformation. Please see below for links to the webinars:

October 21 Recording - State-Designated Rural Health Center Kickoff
October 22 Recording
October 22 Slides

Additional Resources

National Rural Health Resource Center
HRSA Federal Office of Rural Health
Rural Health Research Gateway


North Carolina Rural Health Center Program
Office of Rural Health
2009 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

Dorothea Brock
Program Manager
919 527-6477

Monifa Charles
919 527-6474

Caroline Collier
919 527-6495