The Oklahoma State Department of Health and its Office of Primary Care have recently launched a loan repayment program known as OK Health Corps. The program provides financial support for health professionals working in shortage areas in the state through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The OK Health Corps program offers awards of up to $50,000 to health professionals in the fields of primary care, mental health, and dental health. To be eligible, recipients must commit to two years of service in community facilities certified under the National Health Services Corps, which is a federal program that supports providers through loan repayment. The facility must be located in a designated health professional shortage area and must fill out a site agreement.
Different amounts are available for different providers. Psychiatrists can receive up to $50,000, while other professionals such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, registered nurses, pharmacists, and eligible mental health clinicians can receive up to $35,000. Amounts awarded will not exceed the outstanding balance of qualified educational loans.
Mental health and substance use disorder specialists receive priority when applying for this program. Depending on available resources, additional providers in other disciplines will also be considered. Recipients must sign a contract with the State Department of Health committing to either full- or part-time service with full-time equivalent being 40 hours per week and part-time equivalent being 20 hours per week with a minimum of 45 weeks per service year.
The goal of the OK Health Corps program is to incentivize healthcare providers to practice in areas of significant need in Oklahoma as stated by Jana Castleberry, Director