The case for loan repayment programs
Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce shortage continues to challenge the state. Through 2024, the number of retiring psychiatrists nationally is projected to surpass the number joining the workforce. As Oklahoma grapples with a mental health crisis, rural areas have seen a 27% increase in suicide over the course of 2020. Oklahoma must act to address the existing behavioral health workforce shortage for the health and safety of its residents.
In 2019, Oklahoma’s Mental Health Loan Repayment Act (SB 773) created a framework for part of a solution. The legislation created a Mental Health Loan Repayment Revolving Fund (MHLRRF), but this program has yet to be implemented. Oklahoma can begin to address its workforce shortages by fully funding and implementing a loan repayment program for behavioral health professionals.