Interested in Practicing in an Underserved Area?

The APA Education Government Relations Office (GRO) continues to seek increased federal support for psychology education and training, particularly for psychologists who work with underserved populations. As part of these efforts, it is important for psychologists working with underserved populations to be eligible for federal loan repayment. It is our intention to expand the number of psychologists working in the $2 billion the Federally Qualified Community Health Centers Program of which there are over 4,000 sites nationwide. Increasing the number of psychologists at these federal sites will increase awareness of the important role psychologists play and will likely lead to new internships by creating potential supervisors for future trainees. 

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) provides financial assistance to psychologists (and other health professionals) in exchange for providing health care services in designated underserved areas known has Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).  There are three categories of health professional shortage areas: medical, dental and mental health. Psychologists are listed in the mental health category.  Federally funded Community Health Centers, which are in underserved areas, have HPSA designations. President Bush has fulfilled his pledge to significantly increase funding for the NHSC and to double the Community Health Center Program funding for which many NHSC participants work.  Both of these federal programs hold promising employment prospects for psychologists willing to work in our nation's underserved communities in rural and urban areas.

NHSC Loan Repayment for Early Career Psychologists

In order to participate in the NHSC Loan Repayment Program, psychologists must find a facility or site that is 1) designated as a mental health professional shortage area and 2) willing to hire them.

The NHSC (and over thirty other federal agencies) use a list compiled by the Office of Shortage Designation to determine health professional shortage areas. Like the NHSC, the Office of Shortage Designation is administered by the Bureau of Health Professions. [Note: The Community Health Center Program is administered by the Bureau of Primary Health Care. Both of the above mentioned Bureaus are in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration.] 

Another Option for Participating in the NHSC Loan Repayment

Besides finding a facility or site, which has already been designated as a mental health HPSA, a psychologist who wants to participate in the NHSC Loan Repayment program may seek out a public facility or site in an underserved area that is willing to become designated as a Mental Health HPSA.

The facility may apply for the designation, which is a simple process, and then hire the psychologist. Getting a designation is not difficult.  Filling out the application only requires some time and effort to gather the appropriate information. Further, the Office of Shortage Designation is available to provide technical assistance (1-800-400-2742). 

Along with the Office of Shortage Designation your state's Primary Care Office (PCO) can also assist with the data collection. The purpose of a state PCO is to increase access to primary and preventative health care and to improve the health status of underserved and vulnerable populations. The types of data required include: provider to population ratio, access to primary health care (distance and time), and poverty levels.