The Oklahoma State Department of Health along with its Office of Primary Care have initiated a loan repayment program for health professionals working in areas with a shortage, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The OK Health Corps program will provide primary care, mental health, and dental health clinicians with up to $50,000, and in exchange, recipients will be required to commit to two years of service in community facilities certified under the National Health Services Corps. The federal program will aid providers through loan repayment. To qualify for the program, the facility must be located in a designated health professional shortage area, and it must fill out a site agreement. The award amounts for providers are as follows: Psychiatrists can receive up to $50,000, while physician assistants, nurse practitioners in eligible specialties, certified nurse midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists, registered nurses, pharmacists, and eligible mental health clinicians can receive up to $35,000. Providers who specialize in mental health and substance use disorders will be prioritized, and depending on available resources, additional providers in different disciplines will also be considered. After receiving the loan, recipients must sign a contract with the State Department of Health, committing to full- or part-time service. Full-time service is equivalent to 40 hours per week, and part-time service is 20 hours per week, with a minimum of 45 weeks per service year.
Jana Castleberry, the Office of Primary Care’s Director, stated in a news release that the goal is to incentivize providers to practice in areas of significant need in the state. Castleberry also mentioned that the objective is to support the health workforce and increase access to health care in Oklahoma. To apply for the program, visit the department’s website.