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Press Releases

Behavioral Health Staff Awarded Over $500K in Debt Relief in Exchange for Three-Year Commitment to the Health System

As part of the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment program, 16 employees received between $30,000 and $50,000 in student debt relief.

Another $420,000 in debt relief is available to eligible employees and new hires; applications are open until May 1.

Apr 12, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Health + Hospitals behavioral health staff at the announcement of a $1 million anonymous donation to launch a student loan forgiveness program for behavioral health professionals (July 2022). Credit: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Health + Hospitals behavioral health staff at the announcement of a $1 million anonymous donation to launch a student loan forgiveness program for behavioral health professionals (July 2022). Credit: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office.

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced that as part of its Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program over a half a million dollars in student loan repayments had been distributed to eligible members of its behavioral health staff. Sixteen people received between $30,000 and $50,000 of student debt relief, a total of $580,000, in exchange for a three-year commitment to serve the public health system. The recipients are a mix of new and existing employees and include behavioral health Licensed Clinical Social Workers, psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, Psychologists and Psychiatrists. The loan repayment program was made possible by a $1 million donation through an anonymous donor and was first announced last summer by Mayor Adams. The new program is designed to help attract and retain clinicians who care for New Yorkers with mental health or substance use needs as the U.S. faces a national mental health professional shortage.

“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,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Dr. Omar Fattal. “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.”

“With the generous support of our anonymous donor, NYC Health + Hospitals is providing tangible support to sustain our behavioral health workforce at a time when we are seeing increased need for their essential services,” said Deborah A. Brown, Senior Vice President for External and Regulatory Affairs, NYC Health + Hospitals, JD, MSW. “We are approaching this issue from all possible angles, including productive partnerships with private donors. We hope to continue this exemplary investment in our workforce with additional philanthropic support from all those who understand the importance of increasing access to behavioral health services throughout New York City.”

“I have been a family nurse practitioner for over 20 years,” said Yovan Gonzalez, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Gouverneur. “As a primary care provider, it became clear to me that there is no whole health without behavioral health, so I went back to school to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Obtaining this grant has eased a big financial burden and helped me stay more focused with my work as a mental health provider and researcher.”

“I have worked at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi as a nurse for 24 years. After working on the inpatient detox unit, I decided to pursue a degree as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner,” said Geretha Diamond, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. “Working with the mentally ill has provided me with such satisfaction in my job that I would not want to work in any other area. When you witness individuals who have decompensated mentally and physically being treated and leaving mentally and physically stable, the reward is unexplainable. Thank you, NYC Health + Hospitals, for this recognition of my hard work and commitment to our patients.”

“I became a social worker because my heart has always been in being of service to others, and to help individuals live their life with meaning, health and self-determination,” said Julia Suklevski, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for NYC Health + Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare. “It is through connections with individuals of all lived experiences that I learn important life lessons, which in turn becomes instrumental in how I continue to guide and support those who are needing a helping hand, an open ear, and an advocate who can empower them to become the experts of their own care. I have been a social worker with NYC Health and Hospitals for the past three years, starting out in the Mental Health Service Corps Program and presently I work within Virtual Express Care, as it has always been my passion to serve and make a difference in the lives of those in need. This grant has allowed me to do just that without the added burden of financial stress.”

“As a Nurse Practitioner, I aspired to incorporate a holistic approach to care in which all of the patient’s needs are to be considered and addressed. By engaging in continuing education and becoming a Nurse Practitioner specializing in psychiatric-mental health, I have been able to serve many members of my community through some of their most vulnerable times,” said Elizabeth Sewell, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County. “The loan forgiveness program has taken a sizable burden off me and has enabled me to truly pivot all of my mental energy towards providing diligent services to those within the vulnerable population struggling with mental illness.”

The loan repayment program has another $420,000 in debt relief to distribute to eligible employees and new hires this year. Applications are open until May 1, and New Yorkers can support this effort by donating directly to NYC Health + Hospitals. NYC Health + Hospitals provides about 60% of all behavioral health services for children and adults in New York City.

Early-career Psychiatrists have on average $190,000 of medical school debt, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners have on average $56,000 of debt, Social Workers have on average $68,000 of debt, and Psychologists have on average $80,000 of debt. NYC Health + Hospitals recognizes the burden that debt places on its workforce and is committed to programs that reduce it.

As part of the largest municipal health care system in the nation, NYC Health + Hospitals’ public hospitals and neighborhood health centers offer a wide variety of excellent mental health services to foster recovery from mental illness of all kinds. Additionally, NYC Health + Hospitals provides the highest-quality alcohol and substance use recovery programs as part of its behavioral and mental health services, with personalized, caring treatment plans that are effective for each patient.

New Yorkers who need support for mental health or substance use can call 844-NYC-4NYC for an appointment at NYC Health + Hospitals or contact NYC Well online.


About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.