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Behavioral Health Staff Receive $1 Million in Debt Relief in Exchange for Three-Year Commitment to the Health System

As part of the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment program, 27 providers will be awarded between $30,000 and $50,000 in student debt relief

Some of the recipients shared their thoughts about receiving student debt relief in a video available here

Jun 28, 2023

Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Dr. Omar Fattal (far right), Senior Vice President for External and Regulatory Affairs Deborah A. Brown (third from left), and recipients of the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program (Credit: NYC Health + Hospitals).

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced that as part of its Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program, $1 million in student loan repayments are being distributed to members of its behavioral health staff. Twenty-seven providers will receive between $30,000 and $50,000 of student debt relief in exchange for a three-year commitment to serve the public health system. The 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. Offering student loan debt relief is one way that NYC Health + Hospitals can close the gap between the number of providers and the number of New Yorkers in need. The recipients are a mix of new and existing employees and include behavioral health licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists. Together, these individuals serve 25,000 patients annually. The loan repayment program was made possible by a $1 million donation from an anonymous donor and was first announced last summer by Mayor Adams. Some of the recipients shared their thoughts about receiving student debt relief in a video available here.

“Thanks to the generous donation by an anonymous donor, over two dozen providers at our public hospitals received relief from student debt,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Now these individuals can focus on what matters most: providing high-quality mental health and substance use care to their patients.”

“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 Omar Fattal, MD, MPH. “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.”

“It was a true privilege to meet the first cohort of BH4NYC awardees, whose outstanding work serves as an inspiration for all New Yorkers,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for External and Regulatory Affairs Deborah A. Brown, JD, MSW. “Thanks to the exceptional generosity of our anonymous donor, we were able to provide tangible assistance to members of our behavioral health workforce during this critical time of heightened demand. We are seeking to expand upon this exemplary investment by nurturing new partnerships with all those who recognize the importance of ensuring access to these vital services across New York City.”

“I can breathe so much easier not having a debt I have been paying for over twenty-three years!” said R. Oliver, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Inpatient Behavioral Health at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi

“I am extremely grateful and moved by the meaningful student-debt relief grant I was awarded by a most generous donor, humbly choosing to remain anonymous, of the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment program,” said Ilana Blum, a Physician Assistant in Outpatient Behavioral Health at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “This award provides my family and I with considerable student debt relief which, in essence, allows me to take better care of my family during these tumultuous times. When I decided to go into healthcare, I knew full well that I’d be sacrificing time and memories with my family. To receive extra recognition and an award of this nature just means so much to my family and I. Thank you to everyone involved in making this happen.”

“The BH4NYC award has certainly had a beneficial impact on my finances but more importantly it has provided an overall sense of validation for the work we do,” said Hina Khan, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the Mobile Crisis Team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. “As a mobile crisis social worker, I am often walking into situations where I don’t know what to expect, and using just the tools of our trade – engagement, clinical and assessments skills – I am set to navigate whatever crisis awaits me. This award has allowed me to fully reinvest myself in continuing to serve the severely mentally ill population.”  

“The BH4NYC award provides me the opportunity to focus my energy on my patients and work in the public hospital system,” said Dr. Lana Irons, a Psychiatrist for the Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County. “This award will go a long way toward my financial stability so that I can be fully present and provide optimal care.”

On average, early career psychiatrists have $190,000 of student debt, psychologists have $80,000 of student debt, social workers have $68,000 of student debt, and psychiatric nurse practitioners have $56,000 of student debt. NYC Health + Hospitals recognizes the burden that student 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 provides about 60% of all behavioral health services for children and adults in New York City. 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.