National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) Primary Care Initiative — September 2009

NHSC & Community Health Center Program FY 2009 Funding

The National Health Service Corps will receive $14 million more for a total of $135 million with an emphasis on field placement and psychologists are among those health professionals eligible for this funding. In addition, the NHSC is encouraged to support multi-year rather than single year commitments. The Community Health Center (CHC) Program received an increase of $125 million and will be funded this year at $2.2 billion making it possible for hiring more psychologists and other health professionals.  In the Stimulus package there is an additional $300 million for the NHSC for recruitment and field operations and an additional of $500 million for CHCs for a limited time of up to two years.

NHSC Financial Aid Programs

Psychologists are eligible through the Loan Repayment Program (LRP). There are currently 370 psychologists in the NHSC LRP and since our advocacy effort to gain access for psychologists beginning in 1995, there have been 777 psychologists in the NHSC.

There is a committee of APA members who are NHSC LRP participants and/or Ambassadors and others who are interested in the NHSC that is communicating on concerns that need to be addressed, including barriers to matching psychologists with designated sites or Health Profession Shortage Areas (HPSA) due to licensing and funding issues, the ineligibility of school psychologists and the lack of access of psychologists to the NHSC Scholarship Program. We are preparing Report Language for the FY2010 appropriations bill on some of these issues and will take those issues and the others to the new Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator and NHSC Director.

FQHC Primary Care Initiative

The FQHCs, which are funded through Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, include community health centers, migrant health centers, health centers for the homeless and public housing based health centers that were given an additional $500 million for new sites and services.

Since 1994 Education GRO has approached Congress, both authorizing and appropriations committees and HRSA, on gaining access for psychologists to the NHSC and through that program being matched to and hired by Community Health Centers. The Practice Directorate assisted in the beginning with outreach to other relevant associations and recently with a joint effort that focuses on reaching out to state Primary Care Associations (PCAs) that are the umbrella organization for the state’s FQHCs.

On September 19, 2008 during the Fall Consolidated Meetings in Washington, DC, the Education GRO and the Practice Directorate Committee on Rural Health (CHC) hosted an all-day meeting on the role of psychologists and trainees in FQHCs. Attending were key APA members with interest and expertise in rural health, integrated health care, and those in underserved communities represented by the Public Interest Directorate Socioeconomic Status Committee.  They included Gil Newman, PhD, Wright Institute of Berkeley, CA.  Parinda Kahtri, PhD of the Cherokee Health Systems of  Talbot, TN and Ben Miller, PsyD University of Massachusetts. Dr. Miller & Kathri spoke about successful efforts at integrated health care including psychologists, and Dr. Newman addressed efforts in CA to place psychologists and psychology trainees in Community Health Centers that began in collaboration with Education GRO staff. Other invited guests included Gina Capra, a representative for the US Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) in the Health Resources and Services Administration, and Michael Lardiere of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).  Both spoke about the FQHC program and the efforts to address the mental and behavioral health needs of the underserved.

As a result of that meeting, efforts by Education GRO to work with state PCAs for the inclusion of psychologists and psychology trainees in Community Health Centers began in NM, ME and are planned for NH, MT and possibly AK.