Funding Need For Health Professional Shortage

NEWBURGH – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at the SUNY Orange Newburgh campus to announce her push to provide $67 million for the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); Gillibrand is pushing for the funding in a letter to congressional leadership. She was joined by NYS Senator James Skoufis, NYS Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, and Deputy Orange County Executive Harry Porr.

The U.S. is currently facing a historic health care worker shortage that’s been exacerbated by the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the problem is only expected to worsen.

Experts estimate that the country could see a shortfall of as many as 124,000 physicians by 2034, and New York alone is projected to be short more than 39,000 registered nurses by 2030. More than 5 million New Yorkers live in primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs); this figure exceeds the primary care HPSA populations of 46 other states. Orange County as a whole is a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and was designated a HPSA even before the pandemic.

Megan Deichler, Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center (CHAHEC) Executive Director, offers remarks after U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her push to provide $67 million for the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program on Monday, October 25, 2021 at SUNY Orange in Newburgh. HUDSON VALLEY PRESS/ Chuck Stewart, Jr.
Megan Deichler, Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center (CHAHEC) Executive Director, offers remarks after U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her push to provide $67 million for the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program on Monday, October 25, 2021 at SUNY Orange in Newburgh. HUDSON VALLEY PRESS/ Chuck Stewart, Jr.

AHECs commit to diversifying the health workforce by recruiting a diverse population of youth to health care careers and facilitating the distribution of clinicians, especially in underserved and rural communities. Each AHEC places health professions students in a variety of real-world settings, such as migrant, urban, and rural community health clinics and health departments to provide health care to surrounding populations. With close to 50 years of operation, AHECs meet the current and emerging needs of the communities they serve through robust community-academic partnerships, with a focus on exposure, education, and training of the current and future health care workforce.

“Over the last year and a half, our health care system and our health care providers have been under historic levels of stress. They have worked night and day – at great risk – to meet rising demand and keep their fellow New Yorkers safe and healthy, and they need reinforcements,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am urging congressional leadership to deliver $67 million to the AHEC program in order to address the health care staffing shortage and to recruit, train and build the next generation of health care workers.”

“For over 50 years, federally sponsored Area Health Education Centers have filled an important gap in health and mental health services in our underserved and rural areas across the country,” said NYS Senator James Skoufis. “Given Orange County’s worsening healthcare workforce shortage amid an ongoing pandemic, there’s never been a more meaningful time for Congress to expand funding for healthcare training and access. Programs such as the Pathways Transfer Agreement I recently helped broker between SUNY Orange and Empire State College, which encourages aspiring nurses to stay local for their advanced degrees, is a piece of a much larger puzzle state and federal leadership must work together to solve. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her advocacy on behalf of Area Health Education Centers and her recognition of the challenges communities like ours in Orange County are facing.”

“Even before the pandemic, the Mid-Hudson Valley suffered from a chronic shortage of healthcare workers. COVID has only made a bad situation even more dire,” said NYS Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson. “That’s why I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for working hard to ensure that the federal government funds Area Health Education Centers, which play a crucial role in educating young people about careers in healthcare and make it easier for them to acquire their credentials and enter the profession. SUNY Orange does an incredible job educating future healthcare professionals, but they could do so much more with additional support.”

“Access to affordable healthcare, delivered by trained and compassionate professionals, is something each of us should enjoy, regardless of who we are, where we live or what we make. SUNY Orange’s health professions programs have a long and rich history of producing highly qualified, trained and caring graduates, many of whom leave our ranks and move directly into distinguished and meaningful careers here in the Hudson Valley,” said Dr. Kristine Young, SUNY Orange President. “Senator Gillibrand’s request for greater funding for AHECs seeks to guarantee expanded access to affordable healthcare, specifically for underserved populations and geographic regions. It also would provide for additional timely and relevant training for healthcare workers, a need that became supremely evident during the pandemic.”

“Our current crisis continues to threaten the already serious and growing health professional shortage which has led to a lack of access to care in Orange County,” said Megan Deichler, Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center (CHAHEC) Executive Director. “The workforce is our healthcare infrastructure, and it needs adequate investment if we are to end health disparities and ensure health equity. CHAHEC thanks Senator Gillibrand for always being a champion for AHECs. Our work would not be possible without the federal funding we receive each year, and we are grateful for the Senator’s efforts on these very important issues.”

AHECs serve 85% of all counties nationally and support health care workforce development and education by training providers in interdisciplinary settings to respond to the needs of special and underserved populations. In New York State, there are three regional centers and nine AHECs statewide. Locally, the Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center works to address workforce shortages by introducing high school students to careers in health care and working with local nursing, medical, and physician assistant schools to provide students an opportunity to understand the social and cultural factors that influence an individual’s overall health and access to quality care.

Gillibrand continues to champion the implementation of Health Force: her landmark, multibillion-dollar public health legislation passed in the American Rescue Plan. Gillibrand successfully secured nearly $8 billion for her Health Force legislation – the Health Force, Resilience Force, And Jobs To Fight COVID-19 Act – to create a robust public health workforce to aid vaccine distribution and mobilize community leaders to improve health outcomes in their communities. It is imperative that vulnerable communities and health leaders have the resources and capability to distribute vaccines equitably and efficiently, and trusted messengers with whom they can talk through their concerns. In a recent letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Gillibrand pushed to ensure implementation of her ARP-passed provisions behind Health Force in Section 2501, the public health workforce provision, aligned with its original intent, including the implementation of labor standards and wages no less than $15 an hour plus benefits, and targeted hiring in underserved communities.

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