The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has added a new financial assistance initiative to increase West Virginia’s behavioral health workforce as the state’s largest agency tries to fill significant vacancies.
State officials are offering educational loan repayment incentives to attract therapists, social workers and psychiatrists.
“DHHR’s bureaus for Behavioral Health and Public Health are requesting applications for the third round of the Statewide Therapist Loan Repayment Project (STLR) with a primary focus on recent master’s level graduates in social work, counseling, or psychology, and includes psychiatric nurse practitioners and child psychiatrists,” said DHHR officials in a press release last week.
“Our state’s children and our communities have faced incredible challenges, and too many are in emotional distress,” said Christina Mullins, DHHR Deputy Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. “The STLR project is focused on growing West Virginia’s behavioral health workforce to ensure that individuals can more easily access quality, evidence-based care from skilled providers. We are committed to supporting the treatment and recovery of individuals with mental health and substance use disorders in our state.”
DHHR leaders say applicants in the qualifying fields will apply for partial loan repayment for their educational expenses in exchange for a two-year service obligation at an eligible workplace within the state.
Awards for successful applicants are expected to be $35,000 for counselors, psychologists, and social workers, and $100,000 for child psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners, dependent on documented educational loans and funding availability.
STLR applicants must have graduation dates between September 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023, must be qualified to practice in West Virginia prior to beginning their service obligation, and must agree to the terms and conditions of the STLR guidelines.
The initial round of STLR was open to counselors and therapists and received more than 100 applications. The second round was expanded to include child psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners and received more than 100 applications.
STLR eligibility guidelines and application information are on the DHHR website at: https://dhhr.wv.gov/BBH/data/STLR. The project coordinator can be reached by email at Steven.A.Little@wv.gov.
The application deadline is January 31, 2023.