(BPT) - The health care system faces many challenges, including the availability of quality care for millions of Americans. While clinicians are struggling to pay off student loan debt, patients in geographically isolated areas, such as rural and underserved communities, have limited access to care and are most in need of obtaining it.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency within the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services, addresses this problem with the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC Loan Repayment Program helps medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health clinicians pay off their student loan debt in exchange for working in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
“The NHSC builds healthy communities by providing financial awards to primary care providers committed to serving in the nation's high-need communities,” says Israil Ali, Director, Division of National Health Service Corps at HRSA. “Many of the areas in which the NHSC works face high rates of chronic illness, including opioid and other substance use disorders. HRSA is focused on increasing access to evidence-based prevention and treatment services in communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.”
The NHSC is currently taking applications for three NHSC Loan Repayment Programs until May 21, 2020. Eligible disciplines include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health service psychologists, licensed counselors, therapists and more. Qualified clinicians may qualify for up to $100,000 in educational loan repayment, depending on the award.
Through one application, providers may apply for one of three NHSC loan repayment programs:
NHSC Loan Repayment Program
This two-year commitment program supports clinicians with up to $50,000 to pay off their student loan debt in exchange for service at an NHSC-approved site.
NHSC Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program
This three-year commitment supports the recruitment and retention of health professionals with up to $75,000. Providers must be working to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, expand access to evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment and prevent overdose deaths in underserved areas. Applicants must work at an NHSC-approved SUD treatment facility located in a HPSA.
NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program
This three-year commitment addresses the often-disproportionate need for qualified SUD providers in rural communities and awards up to $100,000 in loan repayment funds. Applicants must work at a rural NHSC-approved SUD treatment facility located in a HPSA.
Making an Impact
Currently, 13.7 million people receive care from the 13,000-strong NHSC network of clinicians serving in urban, rural, and tribal areas. Since the NHSC began, more than 50,000 primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health professionals have served. By working with the NHSC, clinicians can help ensure access to healthcare for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, prevent disease and illness, and care for the nation’s most vulnerable people.
To learn more about NHSC’s Loan Repayment Program and apply, visit NHSC.HRSA.gov/loan-repayment/.