$4M in new state funds will boost efforts to recruit health care professionals

Two new state initiatives aim to help Maine’s health care industry grapple with a crippling labor shortage.

The programs from the Finance Authority of Maine are designed to help he state attract and retain nurse educators and health care professionals in medicine, dentistry and behavioral health.

A total of $4 million will be made available for the initiatives through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.

For many, the cost of education puts health care professions out of reach, said Gov. Janet Mills, who announced the programs Monday at Sheepscot Valley Health Center in Coopers Mills.

“These scholarships and loan relief programs will bring more Maine people — especially young people — into the health care workforce and enable them to live and practice in communities across our state,” she said.

One of the initiatives provides student loan repayment assistance to health care professionals in medicine, dentistry, behavioral health and nursing education.

Health care professionals can apply for up to $75,000 in relief for qualifying student loan debt while nursing educators can receive up to $40,000. To be eligible, nursing educators or health care professionals must be working in Maine or must commit to working in Maine for at least three years.

In addition, the state will boost funding for FAME’s Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship by $2 million. The program awards up to $25,000 in annual scholarships to students enrolled in the Tufts University School of Medicine Maine Medical Center Maine Track Program and the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The infusion of funding allows FAME to immediately increase the number of scholarships to eight per year and maintain that level of assistance for five years longer than would have been possible without the funding.

In a statement, Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said, “For many years, health care facilities across the state have grappled with a shortage of workers, a challenge that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Attracting new health professionals, and helping others afford to teach the next generation of providers, will ensure that Maine people can continue to access quality health care long into the future.”

Timothy Dentry, president and CEO of Northern Light Health, said, “With education costs for clinical training often outpacing other skillsets, student loan debt among health care workers is a significant burden for many.”

State assistance will help retain existing health care workers and recruit new workforce in the future, he added.

Dr. Andrew Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth, added, “The Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship program and the student loan repayment programs represent strategic and collaborative investments in debt relief for our future health care workforce that exemplify our vision of working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.”