The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Primary Care Office (PCO), has created a comprehensive, integrated, and well-coordinated approach to recruitment and retention of health care practitioners within Pennsylvania's underserved communities that include health improvement planning, rural health, and health workforce assessment. The PCO maintains a comprehensive Primary Health Care Practitioner Program that includes the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program (LRP), visa waivers, assessment of unmet need, primary care capacity building programs, and pre-professional development programs. Since 1992, the LRP has funded 665 practitioners who have provided primary care to Pennsylvania's federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). The LRP, will use HRSA State Loan Repayment Program grant fuds, matched with state funding, to offer a maximum of $80,000 in repayment of educational loans for physicians (in the specialties of family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, or psychiatry), dentists (general or pediatric), and psychologists. A maximum of $48,000 will be offered to physician assistants, certified registered nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, registered dental hygienists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Practitioners must agree to serve two years at an LRP-approved practice site in a federally designated HPSA. To improve access to mental health care, the LRP has decided to increase the amount of loan repayment available to psychologists. It is anticipated that this increase in loan repayment will attract more psychologists to serve in HPSAs. Pennsylvania has 143 Primary Care HPSAs, 157 Dental HPSAs, and 123 Mental Health HPSAs, according to the HRSA Data Warehouse. Over 500 fulltime equivalent practitioners would be needed in these areas to remove these designations and meet the needs of medicall
y underserved residents. With successful funding from this application, the LRP projects a total of 200 practitioners will be recruited to fill vacancies at approved practice sites in Pennsylvania HPSAs over the four-year project period of this grant (9/1/22 - 8/31/26). For each of the four budget years, the LRP projects to recruit 17 physicians/dentists and 33 midlevel practitioners; 50% to be placed in Primary Care HPSAs, 25% to be placed in Dental HPSAs, and 25% to be placed in Mental Health HPSAs.