The state is putting $130 million into a loan repayment program to encourage social workers, primary care physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, substance use recovery coaches and case managers to stay in the workforce.
Among the state’s priorities are helping those who work or reside in Haverhill, Methuen or Lawrence, which have been designated as COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative communities. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services contracted with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers to launch a loan repayment program to support and retain the behavioral health and primary care workers. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund.
“The pandemic has exacerbated workforce shortages across the health care and human services sector in both the public and private markets, placing significant stress on our health care providers, their staff and our Massachusetts residents seeking care,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Through this program, we are providing tangible support to sustain them in this high demand work.”
Applications will be accepted in December by the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers to qualifying employees who work at community health centers, community mental health centers, psychiatric units in acute care hospitals, in-patient psychiatric hospitals or substance use treatment programs. Loans eligible for repayment include government loans made by federal, state, county or city agencies and commercial loans from banks, credit unions, savings and loan associations, insurance companies, schools and other institutions.
“The debilitating employee shortages we are experiencing in healthcare have been decades in the making. Although primary and behavioral health care is associated with higher value and better outcomes for Massachusetts residents, our society has consistently undervalued these essential healthcare services. This loan repayment program is an effort to right that wrong by investing in personnel critical to the health of the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers President and CEO Michael Curry.
Loan repayments range between $12,500 and $300,000 per individual depending on their occupation, job setting, academic degree level attained and whether the individual works part-time or full-time.