Eligibility Criteria Expanded to Licensed Professionals, Including Social Workers, Therapists, Psychoanalysts and Psychologists
State-Funded Program Aimed at Bolstering Staff Recruitment and Retention Efforts as Part of Governor Hochul’s $1 Billion Mental Health Care Plan
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a $5 million expansion of the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program 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 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.
New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Growing the mental health workforce in our state is an integral part of our efforts to extend services to more New Yorkers, including those from traditionally marginalized populations. By expanding this loan repayment program, we can address existing shortages and begin to build out the workforce of tomorrow as we continue to implement Governor Hochul’s landmark plan to build the continuum of mental health care in New York State.”
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.
At the same time, Governor Hochul’s multi-year mental health care plan is expanding services in several crucial areas, particularly to serve children and youth. For instance, the Office of Mental Health solicited proposals and will soon expand mental health outpatient treatment and rehabilitative clinics at schools across the state, which is expected to increase demand for qualified clinicians and mental health professionals.
New York State Coalition for Children's Behavioral Health President and CEO Kayleigh Zaloga said, “We are thrilled to see the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program expanded to include the wide array of practitioners our programs rely on to serve children and families. Dedicating the funds in the next round of the program to the newly eligible practitioners acknowledges their value and provides a real benefit to working in community settings. We also appreciate the increased focus on practitioners who are multilingual or members of underrepresented groups as we work to improve the diversity and cultural competence of our workforce.”
New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare Executive Director Lauri Cole said, "On behalf of 130 NYS Council member organizations that provide mental health and substance use services in communities across New York, I want to congratulate Governor Hochul and all of the key decision makers that had a hand in making this critical expansion of loan repayment opportunities for mental health practitioners a reality. Developing, supporting, and maintaining the workforce behind New York’s public mental hygiene system is critical, and the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program is a smart investment that will help healthcare providers recruit and retain staff. We are deeply grateful to the Administration for hearing our concerns. In the days to come, we hope all state lawmakers will continue to prioritize these types of strategic investments in our workforce.”
Coalition For Behavioral Health President and CEO Amy Dorin said, “We are very pleased that Governor Hochul has expanded the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of increasing and retaining a workforce that can help New Yorkers with mental health and substance use problems. We applaud OMH for implementing this loan repayment initiative that will benefit our workforce, our agencies, and, most of all, the recipients of care. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts on this crucial issue.”