Katko bill would relieve mental health workforce shortages

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reports that more than 120 million Americans live in areas facing a shortage of mental health professionals, a situation U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) wants to correct. 

The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act, H.R. 3150, which Rep. Katko sponsored on May 12 with original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), would amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize a loan repayment program for mental health professionals that would help relieve workforce shortages. U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tina Smith (D-MN) on the same day introduced companion legislation, S. 1578, in their chamber.

“The ongoing pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the mental health of millions of Americans. We have to ensure there is a sustainable workforce of mental health providers in every community able to deliver care and support to those in need,” Rep. Katko said. “My bill achieves this by incentivizing mental healthcare professionals to practice in underserved communities.”

The HRSA estimates that by 2025, there will be a shortage of more than 250,000 mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, mental health and substance use disorder social workers, clinical and school psychologists, and school counselors, according to information provided by Rep. Katko’s staff. 

Specifically, the proposed measure would authorize up to $250,000 in eligible student loan repayment for mental health professionals who work in mental health professional shortage areas, and would repay one-sixth of an individual’s eligible loans for each year of service, the information says.