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Oklahoma State Department of Health launches loan repayment program to combat clinician shortages

Oklahoma officials estimate 300,000 Oklahomans will lose Medicaid eligibility following the expiration of some pandemic-era expansions.
Karolina Grabowska
Oklahoma officials estimate 300,000 Oklahomans will lose Medicaid eligibility following the expiration of some pandemic-era expansions.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health and its Office of Primary Care launched a loan repayment program for health professionals working in shortage areas, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The OK Health Corps program is awarding up to $50,000 to primary care, mental health and dental health clinicians. In exchange, recipients will commit to two years of service in community facilities certified under the National Health Services Corps — a federal program supporting providers through loan repayment.

The facility must be located in a designated health professional shortage area, and it must fill out a site agreement.

Here’s how the awards break down for providers:

  • Psychiatrists can receive up to $50,000.
  • 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. 

Amounts will not exceed outstanding qualified educational loan balances.
Providers who specialize in mental health and substance use disorders will be prioritized, and depending on available resources, additional providers in different disciplines will be considered.

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.

The Office of Primary Care’s Director, Jana Castleberry, said in a news release the goal of the program is to give providers incentives to practice in areas of significant need in the state.

“We want to support the health workforce and increase access to health care in Oklahoma,” Castleberry said.

To apply for the program, head to the department's website.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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