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NY Expands Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Workers

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A $5 million expansion of the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program was announced on Wednesday to extend eligibility to licensed mental health professionals. Administered by the state Office of Mental Health, the program now has $14 million dedicated to recruiting and retaining skilled mental health professionals at a time when demand for these workers is high and projected to increase.

“Our efforts to improve New York’s continuum of mental health care are dependent on having the trained professionals needed to undertake this critical work,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “This loan repayment program will provide the incentive needed to attract new workers or retain existing professionals to address staffing shortages and meet unmet demand statewide.”

The Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program provides up to $120,000 for psychiatrists and $30,000 for other mental health professionals to repay qualified education loans and student debt, provided they remain employed by licensed community mental health programs for three years. The expanded program extends eligibility to include many other licensed mental health professionals, including master and clinical social workers; mental health counselors; marriage and family therapists; creative arts therapists, psychoanalysts, and psychologists.

Governor Hochul added $5 million to the existing pool of funding as part of her $1 billion plan to improve New York State’s continuum of mental health care, bringing total program funding to $14 million. The additional funding will support 500 awards, including 200 set aside to improve workforce diversity.

Up to 100 awards are reserved for individuals working in settings providing diversity, equity, and inclusion services, such as cultural or linguistic specialization, and 100 awards will be set aside for professionals working in priority settings, such as school-based clinics.

Established in 2022, the program initially provided $9 million in loan repayment funding for psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners, with eligibility extended to psychiatric physician’s assistants in May. During the initial round of awards, roughly $3.4 million in loan repayments were issued for more than 200 psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Nationally, rising rates of mental illness and substance use disorder have created heightened demand for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, a need that is expected to outpace growth of this area of the workforce. Based on findings from the Center for Health Workforce Studies, New York State is projected to have a shortfall of between roughly 1,180 and 2,650 psychiatrists by 2030.

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