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NYC Health + Hospitals’ behavioral health staff receive $1 million in debt relief

Jun. 30, 2023 By Ethan Marshall

As part of NYC Health + Hospitals’ Behavioral Loan Repayment program, 27 providers are being awarded a total of $1 million in student debt relief. Each behavioral health staff member will receive between $30,000 and $50,000 in debt relief.

Each of the recipients are getting the student debt relief in exchange for a commitment to serve the public health system for at least three years. The program is meant to assist in attracting and retaining clinicians who care for New York City residents with mental health or substance use needs, as the United States is currently facing a shortage in mental health professionals. The loan repayment program was made possible by a $1 million donation from an anonymous donor.

“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 Omar Fattal, MD, MPH, 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.”

NYC Health + Hospital views the program as a way of closing the gap between the number of mental health providers available and the number of New York City residents in need of their services. Recipients from this program are a mix of new and old employees, including behavioral health licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists. They serve a combined 25,000 patients on an annual basis.

“The BH4NYC award has certainly had a beneficial impact on my finances, but more importantly, it has provided an overall sense of validation for the work we do,” NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Mobile Crisis Team Licensed Social Worker Hina Khan said. “As a mobile crisis social worker, I am often walking into situations where I don’t know what to expect, and using just the tools of our trade – engagement, clinical and assessments skills – I am set to navigate whatever crisis awaits me. This award has allowed me to fully reinvest myself in continuing to serve the severely mentally ill population.”

Early career psychiatrists average approximately $190,000 in student debt. Psychologists average around $80,000. Social workers average $68,000 of student debt. Psychiatric nurse practitioners have $56,000 of student debt.

“It was a true privilege to meet the first cohort of BH4NYC awardees, whose outstanding work serves as an inspiration for all New Yorkers,” NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for External and Regulatory Affairs Deborah A. Brown, JD, MSW, said. “Thanks to the exceptional generosity of our anonymous donor, we were able to provide tangible assistance to members of our behavioral health workforce during this critical time of heightened demand. We are seeking to expand upon this exemplary investment by nurturing new partnerships with all those who recognize the importance of ensuring access to these vital services across New York City.”

NYC Health + Hospitals provides approximately 60% of all behavioral health services for children and adults in New York City. Its public hospitals and neighborhood health centers offer a wide variety of mental health services meant to foster recovery from all kinds of mental illnesses. Additionally, as part of its behavioral and mental health services, NYC Health + Hospitals provides the highest quality alcohol and substance use recovery programs, with personalized, caring treatment plans.

New Yorkers 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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