Mental health providers willing to practice in Iowa could have part of their student loans paid off.
Senate Study Bill 3003 is an attempt to expand mental health care in rural Iowa. The bill would create a program for mental health professionals who agree to practice in an Iowa city that is within a mental health shortage area as defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
This definition includes most of Iowa except the Polk County area, the area around Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and the area around Mills, Pottawattamie, and Scott counties.
To qualify, a professional must go into full-time practice for five years, or part-time practice for seven. The bill would cover about $8,000 worth of student loan debt each year and top out at $40,000.
Sens. Chris Cournoyer, Herman Quirmbach, and Annette Sweeney held a subcommittee hearing on the bill Wednesday morning.
Lobbyists were generally supportive of the bill. The only request was to apply the proposal statewide while acknowledging resources may be limited. Some pointed out that even if an area isn’t technically a mental health shortage area, they may still have a lot of demand that causes long wait times.
“The mental health underserved populations are everywhere in the state, and not necessarily just in rural populations,” said Dr. Matthew Cooper of the Iowa Psychological Association.
Cooper also said people from underserved areas travel to the counties with providers, or they do telehealth with those providers in metro areas.