Millions of dollars in funding for a federal program to recruit thousands of doctors, nurses and dentists in the country’s most desperate regions is at risk. The federal government poured an extra $800 million into the National Health Service Corps to hire more health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the health emergency over, and funding for the program expiring at the end of September, the expansion is in jeopardy – even as people struggle to get timely and quality care because of an industry-wide dearth of workers.
Last year, just over 20,000 people were corps members – up 50% from 13,000 people in 2019.
The program has placed medical professionals in community health centers around the country from a variety of disciplines – from occupational therapists in Ohio to counselors who treat drug and alcohol addictions in Alaska. Those clinics receive federal funding to provide primary care for patients, regardless of their health insurance status or ability to pay.
The program has found rare bipartisan support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who say they’re grateful for the void corps members fill in rural and needy communities alike that are coping with shortages. Still, the program’s future is hanging in the balance with a split Congress that’s just weeks away from allowing the U.S. to default on its debts. The U.S. is short thousands of family doctors, OB-GYNs and nurses, a problem that is only expected to worsen over the next decade.
FIND AP’s STORY HERE
Federal government’s $1 billion effort to recruit next generation of doctors at risk
VIEW THE DATA
— Look up your state to view a list of community health centers receiving federal funds
— Visit the Health Resources and Services Administration’s National Health Service Corps field strength tracker to look at what health professionals have been placed in your state over the last three years.
CONSIDER THESE REPORTING THREADS
— Every state has community health centers that receive federal funding and are accessed by patients who are on private insurance, Medicaid, or are uninsured. Contact community health centers in your state and talk to them about how reliant they are on the National Health Service Corps program. What type of health care workers have they hired through the program over the last three years? What type of care would residents be missing out on if not for the program? Is there a position the clinic has been able to fill in recent years thanks to the boost in funding?
— With funding in limbo, talk to community health centers about how they are recruiting for the upcoming cycle.
— Local ranks of mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors may have increased with the additional funding to address the ongoing mental health crisis in the U.S. How has that staffing impacted your community? What might change with the funding in limbo?
— For communities with notable immigrant populations, community health centers sometimes provide the only available point of care. How does this program impact your community’s immigrant population?
Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BC-US-Health Worker-Shortage-Localize It
May 12, 2023 7:26 AM – 545 words
By AMANDA SEITZ Associated Press
Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos.
Cover Photo: Dr. Michele Urban, M.D., cares for Tamara Spates, of Salisbury, Md., during a prenatal visit at a Chesapeake Health Care office in Salisbury, Md., Thursday, March 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)