Vermont has a long history of progressive health care reform and increasing access to primary care. Health reform efforts have included annual appropriations to support FQHC development, free clinic support and educational loan repayment and loan forgiveness incentive scholarships to help recruit and retain health care professionals, especially in primary care, dental, nursing and psychiatry. In part, due to Vermont’s workforce investments over the past 20 years, we have just enough providers to prevent us from creating many HPSAs, or any new National Health Service Corps (NHSC) sites since the ending of ARRA funding. Yet, an aging population and increasing national competition for highly trained health care professionals points toward a looming crisis in access to care in Vermont. This has put an incredible demand on the limited resources of our state funded Educational Loan Repayment Program (ELR) incentives administered by the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, to fund recruitment and retention incentives for FQHCs, RHCs and private primary care and dental practices throughout the state. In this cycle of SLRP the Vermont Department of Health will continue its long-standing partnership with the AHEC program office to administer both the ELR and SLRP on similar terms. AHEC will publicize both programs, review applications, write award contracts with providers, monitor compliance and report regularly to the Department of Health. The Department of Health will submit periodic reports and continuation applications to HRSA as required. This cycle we are requesting an increased budget based on the current amount of eligible applications we receive and are historically unable to fund. SLRP has allowed us to provide up to $425,000 of incentives each year ($212,500 federal + $212,500 non-federal match) to FQHC and RHC practices with facility-based HPSAs or independent practices in
one of our six geographic-based dental and primary care HPSAs. This year we are requesting $763,888 in federal funds. We can guarantee that not only can we disburse them all to eligible applicants but that we can and will continue to match federal funds despite the temporary lifting of that requirement. Our goal with this program is to increase access to care for Vermonters through an adequate number of primary care, dental and psychiatry professionals recruited and retained in the state of Vermont between 2022 and 2026. We will do this by providing loan repayment awards of $2,000 ($12,500 SLRP + $12,500 non-Federal) to up to 55 providers each year to work in one of our HPSAs. We will prioritize incentives to our highest needs of general dentistry, psychiatry and primary care providers in Internal Medicine and Family Practice. These additional SLRP funds will allow us to use more of our state-funded ELR incentives to help recruit and retain providers at private practices for primary and dental care with need but no HPSA designations, therefore increasing the overall supply of health care providers in all areas of Vermont, reducing wait times for appointments, and ultimately increasing the health of all Vermonters.