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Is Student Loan Assistance a Viable Mental Health Recruiting Tool

Is Student Loan Assistance a Viable Mental Health Recruiting Tool

The mental health consulting industry is very much aware of the recruiting problem healthcare providers face. In short, there are just not enough mental health professionals to go around. It appears the state of Michigan believes it has found a solution in student loan assistance programs. Last year, they began offering assistance to mental health professionals willing to provide services to underserved populations in rural areas.

The MI Kids Now Loan Repayment Program was launched in 2022 as a way to entice mental health providers to do their part to eliminate coverage gaps in underserved areas of Michigan. It continued this year, with the 2023 application period running from June 12 to June 23.

All mental health providers are eligible to apply, but priority is being given to those professionals whose care focuses on children. Successful applicants can receive up to $200,000 to apply toward outstanding student debt. But to receive the maximum amount, they need to commit to the program for eight years.

No Small Investment

The program is no small investment for the state of Michigan. Likewise, it is a significant benefit to those providers who choose to participate. A $200,000 payment would go a long way toward paying off the student loans medical professionals incur on their way to launching their careers. The incentive could be enough to encourage young people to get into mental health without worrying about educational debt.

In addition, leaders in Michigan hope the program will incentivize both schools and mental health employers to recruit young people more actively. This is an important concept given the fact that there are not enough medical school graduates to meet the ongoing demand. Even with financial incentives going to current practitioners, there needs to be a way to funnel more young people into educational programs.

Success Has Yet to Be Determined

As to whether the program has been a success, the jury is still out. Given that the program is only a couple of years old, its long-term impacts on mental health services have yet to be determined. But time will ultimately provide the answers.

The worry is that any measurable benefits will be short-lived. Such concerns are reasonable. Unless Michigan can continue funding the program in perpetuity, the money will eventually dry up. A major incentive for providing mental health services in underserved areas will dry up with it. Will Michigan then find itself right back where it started?

Supply Is Not Keeping Up With Demand

Our role as a mental health management company leads us to look at things from a business perspective. Our perspective focuses on the problem clearly: supply is not keeping pace with demand. In short, all healthcare – mental health services included – has been facing a shortage of clinicians for some time now. Meanwhile, the demand for services only continues to increase.

Demand has been especially profound in mental health since the onset of the COVID pandemic. It has even been speculated that a greater incidence of mental health problems will be the longest lasting scar COVID leaves on society. Whether or not this is true does not negate the fact that demand for services has increased.

Michigan is now in the second year of a program it hopes will assist recruit more mental health providers to underserved areas of the state. Here is hoping the program succeeds. If it does, it would be nice to see similar programs across the country. But if Michigan’s effort fails, it will be back to the drawing board in search of a new way to improve recruitment.

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.