The legislature recognizes that a poor distribution of health care professionals has resulted in a shortage of some parts of the state, such as in rural areas and in behavioral health services. The legislature also acknowledges that according to the Children’s Mental Health Work Group, in 2013, only 40% of children on Medicaid with mental health treatment needs were receiving services. Furthermore, behavioral health services are limited due to workforce shortages of providers.
As a result, the legislature intends to establish the Washington Health Corps to encourage more health care professionals to work in underserved areas by providing loan repayment and conditional scholarships in return for completing a service commitment.
This act amends RCW 28B.115.020 to include the definition of “underserved behavioral health area” as a geographic area, population, or facility that has a shortage of health care professionals providing behavioral health services.
Moreover, RCW 28B.115.030 is amended to establish the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program, which will be provided to health professionals by the Department of Health in the form of loan repayment or a conditional scholarship. This section also includes requirements for participants and distribution of loan repayment.
Additionally, the role of the planning committee within the office of student financial assistance is amended to assist in developing criteria for the selection of participants for both the health professional loan repayment and scholarship program and the behavioral health loan repayment program.
The bill delineates the program’s operations, the responsibilities of the participants, how the loan repayment process works, the creation of the behavioral health loan repayment program account and more.
A new section is added to RCW chapter 28B.115 to form the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program Account in the custody of the state treasurer. Moreover, expenditures from the account may be used only for the program.
Additionally, the Student Achievement Council, in conjunction with the Department of Health, shall submit a report by December 1st, 2019, regarding the need, feasibility, and potential design of a grant program funding to behavioral health students completing unpaid pre-graduation internships and post-graduation supervised hours for licensure and provide recommendations regarding whether a grant program should be established.