National Health Services Corps Update
NHSC Field Strength
Increased funding for the NHSC has led to significant efforts to grow the number of loan repayment contracts for service in underserved areas, as well as NHSC Scholarships. These efforts and funding increases have doubled the field strength of the NHSC to 7,530 with retention rates at 76% with an expected participation rate of 10,683 for FY 2012. As of July 7, 2010 there were 679 psychologists participating in the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.
All Health Service Psychologists with doctoral degrees (PhD and Psy D) are now eligible for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program (LRP): clinical, counseling, psychologists working in schools and those that specialize in health care for older adults are specifically eligible. Although currently psychologists are not eligible for the Scholarship Program*, HRSA (as described in the FY 2012 Budget Justification) has increased their recruiting efforts in the LRP for mental and behavioral health care providers through social networking, an increased presence at select conferences and establishing a Working Group on Medical and Behavioral Health. In addition, HRSA has specifically recognized the importance of increased psychologist participation in the Loan Repayment Program (LRP), which has resulted in an increase in applications from and awards given to health service psychologists. (Although HRSA has not decided to expand the disciplines eligible for the NHSC scholarship program, NHSC officials, after a meeting with APA staff, are currently considering an APA proposal that provides models on the inclusion of psychologists in the scholarship program.)
The NHSC Loan Repayment Program Application and Program Guidance , released on November 22, 2010, included the ability for applicants to select among three service options: 2-year full-time for up to $60,000; 4-year part-time (20 to 39 hours weekly, at least 45 weeks annually) for up to $60,000; or 2-year half-time for up to $30,000.
Interested applicants may visit the NHSC Job Opportunities Website to learn more about existing openings within the NHSC community sites for psychologists. In addition, the NHSC's Communities Page provides guidance on creating new NHSC community sites.
Community Health Centers Update
There are approximately 8,000 Community Health Center/HPSA sites that may request NHSC participants including psychologists.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Community Health Centers received $500 million for health center services. The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) has health centers budgeted for $3.3 billion (a little higher than the current $3.1 billion in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution) in FY 2012, which includes $1.2 billion in mandatory funding provided through Affordable Care Act Community Health Center Fund. With this funding, the total number of patients served in FY 2012 is projected to reflect an increase of approximately 900,000 totaling 24.4 million patients served. These numbers represent an increase of 5.6 million over the 18.8 million persons served in FY 2009. Congress has yet to introduce and pass a final budget for FY 2011, leaving the final spending levels unknown for Health Centers for FY 2011 and FY2012, however a reduction in funding is likely.
As a result of the increase in funding, around 22 additional psychologists have been hired, adding to the approximately 200 psychologists that had been working in Community Health Centers. Although the increase in psychologists in health centers is encouraging, in April of this year, Senior APA and EdGRO staff met with Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) Associate Administrator Jim Macrae to promote an even larger role for psychologists in Community Health Centers. APA plans to continue to collaborate with the BPHC to further efforts that will stress the importance of having a psychologist in Community Health Centers moving forwards.