HAZARD, Ky. (July 27, 2022) — The Kentucky Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative (KBHWI) is now accepting applications from behavioral and mental health professionals looking for help paying off their student loan debt.

The competitive, federally funded program provides financial support — ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on applicants’ disciplines and specialties, level of loan indebtedness and sponsor commitment level — to help recruit and retain professionals in the Commonwealth’s rural and underserved communities.

The Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH) serves as the administrator for KBHWI, which is funded through the National Health Service Corps, a federal program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, located in Hazard, serves as the federally designated Kentucky Office of Rural Health.

Applicants selected to participate in the program agree to work full time for two years providing behavioral and mental health services at an eligible practice site located in one of Kentucky’s mental health professional shortage areas. Participants receive tax-free student loan repayment awards in exchange for their service commitment.

The current application window runs for one month from July 1 to Aug. 1. The deadline to submit completed application materials is 5 p.m. ET Monday, Aug. 1.

Eligible applicants include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional clinical counselors, health service psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and alcohol and substance use disorder counselors.

Service commitments can be completed at a range of health care facilities: federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and FQHC look-a-likes; rural health clinics; correctional or detention facilities; private practices; and a range of other facilities, including community mental health centers, free clinics, critical access hospitals affiliated with a qualified outpatient clinic, long-term care facilities, and state mental health facilities.

KBHWI is a 50/50 match program: For every federal dollar provided through the program, participants must have a 1:1 match from a sponsor source. Sponsors can include employers at their service site; private foundations, corporations, community organizations and/or philanthropies; and, rurally-oriented organizations requesting that their funds be used to support the placement of practitioners in rural and underserved communities.

Program guidelines and all application materials can be found online at https://medicine.uky.edu/centers/ruralhealth/state-loan-repayment-program.

For more information, please contact Lisa Garza (lisa.garza@uky.edu; 606-439-3557, ext. 83490).