Efforts to recruit and retain clinicians caring for children and adolescents, particularly in schools and underserved areas, are getting a $15 million boost from the federal government.
The need for the services is growing. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatric behavioral health in particular has been a major area of concern, with delays in treatment due to a lack of qualified personnel and access to specialized care.
In 2020, a nearly 30% increase occurred in children ages 3 to 17 experiencing anxiety and depression compared with 2016, according to a 2022 report by the Health and Human Services Department.
Loan forgiveness and repayment initiatives have become a popular way for individual facilities, health systems and federal entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Health Service Corps to address staffing shortages. Many states offer scholarships, loan forgiveness and repayment programs to health professionals in exchange for work in health professional shortage areas.
Eligible clinicians who agree to work for at least three years in a health professional shortage area or provide care for a medically underserved population will receive $100,000 if they agree to work there for three years. The Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment Program was announced Friday by HHS and the Health Resources and Services Administration.
To qualify, clinicians must work in or be receiving training in a pediatric medical subspecialty, pediatric surgical specialty, or child and adolescent behavioral healthcare, which could include substance use prevention and treatment services. The application deadline is July 20.
“Through the Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment Program, we will be able to recruit and train new doctors, nurses, counselors, and other health professionals, and improve health outcomes for young people,” HHS secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release.
Other retention and recruitment strategies hospitals are using include offering thousands of dollars in referral and sign-on bonuses, creating more flexible work environments and establishing educational development opportunities.