HHS awards $320M to expand primary care workforce

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U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced $320 million in grants under the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to strengthen the healthcare workforce.

Of those grants, $253 million will go to improving and expanding the primary care workforce under the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the PPACA. Another $67 million in Health Profession Opportunity Grants will provide low-income individuals with education, training and support that will help them prepare to enter and advance in careers in the healthcare sector.

The $253 million in Prevention and Public Health Fund grants are awarded under six health professions programs administered by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration. The programs are designed to build the primary care workforce and provide community-based prevention. States will receive funding to support workforce planning and implementation strategies that address local current and projected workforce shortages.

The $167.3 million Primary Care Residency Expansion program funds 82 accredited primary care residency training programs to increase the number of residents trained in general pediatrics, general internal medicine and family medicine. Grantees will use the five-year grant to provide stipend support for new enrollees in three-year primary care residency training programs. By 2015, the program will support the training of 889 new primary care residents over the number currently being trained and more than 500 of these residents will have completed their training.

The $30.1 million Expansion of Physician Assistant Training program will fund 28 primary care physician assistant training programs for five years. The program funds student stipends of $22,000 per student per year for two years. It is projected that more than 700 physician assistants will receive funding with more than 600 fully trained by 2015. The Advanced Nursing Education Expansion program will provide $31 million in funds to 26 schools of nursing to increase full-time enrollment in primary care nurse practitioner (NP) and nurse midwife (NMW) programs. It is projected that over 1,300 primary care nursing stipends will be supported through this five-year program. By providing a stipend of $22,000 per student per year for up to 2 years, this funding aims to reduce the financial burden of attending school full-time and to accelerate graduation rates to increase the number of advanced practice nurses. Grantees project that 600 NPs and NMWs in total will be fully trained by 2015.

The $14.8 million Nurse Managed Health Clinics (NMHC) program will fund 10 grantees for three years to operate NMHCs to provide primary care. An NMHC is a nurse-practice arrangement, managed by practice nurses, that provides primary care or wellness services to underserved or vulnerable populations and that is associated with a school, college, university or department of nursing, federally qualified health center, or independent nonprofit health or social services agency. Funding will provide access to primary care for approximately 94,000 patients and training for more than 900 advanced practice nurses.

The State Health Workforce Development, offering $5.6 million, will enable 26 states to begin comprehensive healthcare workforce planning or implementation. Planning grants (limited to one year and $150,000 plus 15 percent matching funds) assess a state’s current health workforce and include activities such as gathering and analyzing data, examining current resources, policies and practices, and identifying ways to remove barriers at state and local levels. Implementation grants (limited to two years with 25 percent matching funds) allow states to convene stakeholders at the state and regional levels to develop and implement development plans that address workforce needs. These activities are expected to result in a 10 to 25 percent increase in the primary care health workforce over a 10-year period.

The Personal and Home Care Aide State Training program is a $4.2 million demonstration project that supports states in developing and evaluating a competency-based uniform curriculum to train qualified personal and home care aides. Personal and home care aides are projected to be the fourth fastest growing direct care occupation in the United States between 2008 and 2018. The six state grantees participating in the three-year project anticipate that they will train more than 5,100 PHCAs by 2013.