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Health care practitioners may apply to state for student loan repayment assistance

Application period ends July 30, 2011

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's student loan repayment program, SHARP (Supporting Health care Access through loan Re-Payment) is currently accepting applications for loan repayment from health practitioners. Applications must be received by July 30, 2011.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services program is designed to help recruit and retain health care providers in areas of Alaska that have a provider shortage.

Practitioners eligible to apply include primary care physicians (M.D. or D.O.); general practice dentists; registered clinical dental hygienists; primary care physician assistants; certified nurse practitioners; psychiatrists; psychologists; clinical social workers; psychiatric nurse specialists; marriage and family therapists; and licensed professional counselors.

A tax-free loan repayment benefit of up to $35,000 per year will be paid by the state directly to the lender. To date, the Alaska SHARP program has provided 24 loan repayment awards totaling $1.1 million to a total of 12 behavioral health clinicians, three dentists, and nine medical clinicians based in Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Healy, Homer, Kenai, Petersburg, Skagway, Talkeetna, Tok, Wrangell, and some Interior villages.

Practitioners must work full-time for at least two years for an organization federally recognized as serving an area or population with a health care shortage. There are stiff penalties for not fulfilling the required commitment. A separate option is available for practitioners who work half-time in their positions.

Applications and eligibility criteria may be downloaded at: http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/Healthplanning/sharp/.

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