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Behavioral health staff from NYC Health + Hospitals awarded over $500K in debt relief

Apr. 14, 2023 By Ethan Marshall

As part of the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program at NYC Health + Hospitals, 16 behavioral health staff members each received donations of between $30,000 and $50,000 in student debt relief Wednesday. In total, $580,000 in debt relief is being given, with another $420,000 in debt relief now available to eligible employees and new hires.

The 16 staff members received the debt relief in exchange for a three-year commitment to serve the public health system. They are a mix of new and experienced employees. Among the behavioral health roles they serve are as licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists.

This loan repayment program was first announced by Mayor Eric Adams in the summer of 2022. It was made possible thanks to a $1 million anonymous donation. The purpose of this new program is to help attract and retain clinicians who care for New Yorkers with mental health or substance use needs as the country faces a national shortage in mental health professionals.

“This debt relief program doesn’t just change the lives of individual staff, it sends a powerful message to everyone: frontline mental health professionals are essential and their commitment to NYC Health + Hospitals makes a critical difference to New York City,” NYC Health + Hospitals Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Dr. Omar Fattal said. “We are grateful to the anonymous donor for their generosity, for their bold commitment to our system and for this innovative opportunity to attract and retain exceptional staff.”

Applications for eligible staff members and new hires to receive some of the remaining $420,000 in debt relief are open until May 1. NYC Health + Hospitals also encourages New Yorkers to support further support the effort by donating directly to the organization.

“With the generous support of our anonymous donor, NYC Health + Hospitals is providing tangible support to sustain our behavioral health workforce at a time when we are seeing increased need for their essential services,” NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for External and Regulatory Affairs Deborah Brown, JD, MSW, said. “We are approaching this issue from all possible angles, including productive partnerships with private donors. We hope to continue this exemplary investment in our workforce with additional philanthropic support from all those who understand the importance of increasing access to behavioral health services throughout New York City.”

Approximately 60% of all behavioral health services for children and adults in New York City comes from NYC Health + Hospitals. Its public hospitals and neighborhood health centers provide a wide variety of mental health services as a means to foster recovery from mental illness of all kinds. NYC Health + Hospitals also provides high-quality alcohol and substance use recovery programs as part of its behavioral and mental health services. This includes personalized, caring treatment plans that are effective for each patient.

“I have been a family nurse practitioner for over 20 years,” NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Gouverneur psychiatric nurse practitioner Yovan Gonzalez said. “As a primary care provider, it became clear to me that there is no whole health without behavioral health, so I went back to school to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Obtaining this grant has eased a big financial burden and helped me stay more focused with my work as a mental health provider and researcher.”

Medical school debt is often a big issue for health care staff members young and old. Early-career psychiatrists experience an average of $190,000 in medical school debt; psychiatric nurse practitioners have an average $56,000 of debt; social workers average $68,000 of debt; and psychologists have an average of $80,000 in debt. Through these debt relief grants, NYC Health + Hospitals has shown a commitment to programs that reduce it student debt for its staff.

“I became a social worker because my heart has always been in being of service to others and to help individuals live their life with meaning, health and self-determination,” NYC Health + Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare Licensed Clinical Social Worker Julia Suklevski said. “It is through connections with individuals of all lived experiences that I learn important life lessons, which in turn becomes instrumental in how I continue to guide and support those who are needing a helping hand, an open ear and an advocate who can empower them to become the experts of their own care. It has always been my passion to serve and make a difference in the lives of those in need. This grant has allowed me to do just that without the added burden of financial stress.”

New York City residents who may be in need of support for mental health or substance use can call 844-NYC-4NYC for an appointment at NYC Health + Hospitals or contact NYC Well online.

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