The new college loan forgiveness program aims to address the shortage of practicing psychiatrists in rural West Virginia.

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The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is accepting applications for a new student loan forgiveness program for students who start working in the mental health industry.

The Mental Health Loan Repayment Program pays off a $ 10,000 college doctor loan in exchange for one year of employment in the state.

The goal is to keep practicing psychiatrists in underserved communities in West Virginia where new shortages are emerging.

Caroline Canini, director of behavioral health programs, says the program is also helping to raise the voice of mental health professionals.

“We are very proud of their work,” Canini said. “We know that showcasing them in this way by presenting this award helps advance the profession and also helps set a good example for students who are just starting their education.”

The lack of behavioral health professionals in rural and underserved areas is the reason Kanini considers this program important, especially during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the truth is that the entire state is experiencing behavioral health deficits and it is extremely difficult to recruit and retain people in more rural communities,” Canini said.

“We definitely had plans for this program prior to COVID, and we definitely demonstrated West Virginia’s need for additional programs to help keep professionals on the staff. But when COVID started and we started to see an increase in these cases, it just highlighted the need for this type of program. ”

Last spring, the state awarded its first group of practitioners. Duran Warren, director of behavioral medicine at the Williamson Center for Health and Wellness, was in the first group. He said the program is financially beneficial but also helps him and those with whom he works to achieve emotional success.

“You’re not going to be an insanely wealthy substance use consultant or mental health consultant. You do it because you get rich rewards for seeing someone come back to their life, ”Warren said.

The program accepts applications from October to January. The winners of the award will be announced in February. More information can be found on the website Collegeforwv.com.



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