Of importance for recent grads, pharmacists are now included in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), which gives grants to states to operate their own loan repayment programs for primary care providers in medically underserved areas.
For the first time, participating states have the option to expand their programs to include pharmacists and registered nurses. These professions join physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dental professionals, and mental health professionals on the list of eligible professionals.
“Pharmacists are often an important source of information and counsel in their communities and are increasingly a key member of the primary care team,” Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) spokesperson Michelle Daniels said. “The National Health Service Corps aims to support health care providers who will increase access to care in underserved communities. Providing states additional flexibility to meet the unique needs of their underserved communities benefits the patients the State Loan Repayment Program is designed to serve.”
Announced April 17, the SLRP funding opportunity is competitive and required states to apply. The majority of states participate in SLRP, according to a map on the NHSC website. State participation in SLRP requires matching funds by the state and administration of the program by a state agency. States that apply and are selected can then set up their program to fund pharmacists.
“So individuals should be aware that there probably are not any immediate opportunities,” Daniels said. “They would need to contact the individual SLRP states to see if they will have LRP for pharmacists in the future.” The programs are geared to individuals who are out of school and currently working in Health Professional Shortage Areas.
A federal government program, NHSC is administered by HRSA, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. NHSC’s decision to include pharmacists works around the slow journey in Congress of the Pharmacist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act (S. 48). The bill was introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) in January 2011 to amend the Public Health Service Act to make pharmacists eligible for loan repayment through NHSC.
The opportunity to participate in SLRPs “provides New Practitioners with additional career paths that improve patient care in Health Professional Shortage Areas,” said David R. Steeb, APhA–ASP National President. Student pharmacists and APhA Government Affairs staff have been working to make this a reality.