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The federal government is looking to expand access to primary care doctors, mental health professionals, and other health care practitioners by increasing the financial opportunities to students available through the National Health Service Corp and the Nurse Corps programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $293 million in awards to primary health care clinicians and students through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Nurse Corps programs.

“These programs connect primary care providers with the rural, urban, and tribal communities across the country that need them most,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. “In addition to providing essential medical and dental care, these clinicians are on the front lines helping to fight pressing public health issues, like the growing opioid epidemic.”

The NHSC and Nurse Corps programs build healthy communities by providing scholarships and loan repayment to health care providers in exchange for working in areas of the U.S. with limited access to care.

Currently, an estimated 13 million patients receive care from more than 12,500 NHSC and Nurse Corps clinicians. Another 1,725 primary care students are either in school or in residency preparing for future service with the Corps programs.

More than 3,600 of these NHSC members are currently providing behavioral health care services, including medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based substance use disorder care, in high-need areas. HRSA continues to invest in expanding access to substance use disorder treatment in rural and underserved areas.

“For decades, NHSC and Nurse Corps clinicians have been caring for vulnerable patients who might otherwise go without treatment,” said HRSA’s Associate Administrator for Health Workforce, Luis Padilla, M.D. “In the midst of the current opioid crisis, these providers are again rising to the challenge, working in hard-hit communities to provide mental and behavioral health services, including substance use disorder treatment.”

HHS awards support the following programs:

National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program ($47.1 million) provides 222 new awards and 7 continuation awards to students pursuing primary care training leading to a degree in medicine, dentistry, or a degree as a nurse-midwife, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner in exchange for providing primary health care services in areas of greatest need.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program ($142.1 million) provides 3,262 new awards and 2,384 one-year continuation awards to fully trained, licensed primary care clinicians in exchange for providing primary health care services in an area of greatest need.

National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program ($19.3 million) provides 162 new awards. This program provides loan repayment assistance to medical and dental students in their last year of school in return for their choosing primary care as a practice focus and working in rural and urban areas of greatest need.

National Health Service Corps State Loan Repayment Program ($12.6 million) provides cost-sharing grants to 37 states and territories that operate their own loan repayment programs, funding 1,350 new and continuation awards.

Nurse Corps Scholarship Program ($25.1 million) provides 215 new awards and 4 continuation awards to nursing students in exchange for a commitment to work at least two years in a facility with critical shortages.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program ($44.4 million) provides 544 new awards and 279 one-year continuation awards to nurses in exchange for a commitment to serve at a health care facility with a critical shortage of nurses or serve as nurse faculty at an accredited school of nursing.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program ($1.1 million) provides 23 new awards to health professions educators in exchange for serving as a faculty member in an accredited and eligible health professions school. The program also encourages participants to promote careers in their respective health care fields.

Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program

($900,000) provides 9 new awards and 1 continuation award to Native Hawaiian health professions students trained in those disciplines and specialties most needed to deliver quality, culturally competent, primary health services to Native Hawaiians in the State of Hawaii.

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