Governor Mills Announces $2.25 Million Investment to Strengthen Health Care Workforce in Rural Communities

Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan initiative – matched with other Federal funding – will expand training and career opportunities for doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals

Governor Janet Mills announced today the award of $2.25 million to strengthen Maine’s health care workforce by expanding training opportunities for health care professionals in rural communities and establishing a new system to match people to those opportunities. 

“Rural Maine is my home. I care deeply about the people who live there, and I want to ensure that they have access to high-quality health care services,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This investment builds on our efforts to recruit and train more people to enter the health care workforce and to strengthen our health care system in the long-term for the benefit of Maine people.”

“This investment by Governor Mills will bolster Maine’s health care workforce and ultimately improve access to health care in rural communities,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “Supporting the pipeline of health care professionals and developing a coordinated system to connect Maine people with rewarding career opportunities will help strengthen Maine’s health system for patients statewide.”

The award is funded by $1.6 million from the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, which will be used to recruit and support clinical supervisors, known as preceptors, in rural health systems, and to expand graduate medical education programs in Maine. The funds, administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, will expand training opportunities for doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in rural communities and encourage aspiring health care workers to launch rewarding careers in Down East, northern, and western Maine, where health care providers are in demand. 

The specific awardees are: 

  • $950,000 to MaineHealth to expand Graduate Medical Education (GME) opportunities for physicians in training in hospitals and physician practices in rural and underserved communities across Maine. This initiative is a collaboration among Maine Medical Center-MaineHealth, Central Maine Medical Center, the Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency, and Eastern Maine Medical Center-Northern Light Health. The collaborative will develop new rural training sites, provide support for clinical preceptors in rural communities, and a develop a new, shared rural GME curriculum. 
  • $475,000 to the University of Maine System to increase placement of students pursuing Masters in Social Work (MSW) degrees in rural health care sites, increase the number of trained practitioners who can supervise MSW students, and encourage current health care staff to consider pursuing an MSW degree by providing the opportunity for field placements in rural communities.
  • $175,000 to St. Joseph’s College of Maine to develop and implement new rural clinical preceptorship programs to provide support for students in its undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. 

The Mills Administration is also awarding an additional $650,000 to fund the Building-ME Network project, which aims to create a statewide system to streamline clinical placements for trainees and preceptors in rural communities. These placements will include a variety of positions and specialties, ranging from entry-level clinical support and laboratory staff to physicians, behavioral health providers, emergency responders, and dental health providers. MaineHealth is partnering with Northern Light Health, the Maine Hospital Association, and several other provider groups across the state on the initiative. Funding for this initiative is through a Federal U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant.

“These investments in the GME collaborative and Building-ME Network are important for the people of Maine,” said Linda Chaudron, MD, Vice President of Medical Education at Maine Medical Center-MaineHealth. “Thanks to the support of the Mills Administration, these programs will facilitate partnerships between health care and educational institutions, and support people wanting either to enter the health care workforce, advance health care careers or train as physicians in rural communities across the state.”

“Now more than ever, social workers are essential to ensuring the health, well-being and productivity of Maine people and our communities,” said University of Maine Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “This investment recognizes our public university system’s unique ability to prepare compassionate and highly competent social work professionals for service across our state, and especially in rural regions where there is growing need, but where access to critical mental health and social services is limited. We look forward to leveraging these funds to expand enrollment and opportunity for our social work students to advance their own practice and make a real difference for their fellow Mainers during these times of challenge and change.”

“Health care has experienced a dramatic change with the pandemic and our rural communities and underserved areas have been the hardest hit,” said Kelly Hudock, Chair of the Department of Nursing at St. Joseph’s College of Maine. “St. Joseph’s College of Maine is dedicated to improving health care in Maine and this generous award is the first step for our students, preceptors and communities.” 

“Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is proud to participate in this grant-funded graduate medical education project and appreciate the resources provided by Department of Health and Human Services and the State,” said Jim Jarvis, MD, Northern Light Health. “This money will help develop a network between the four institutions responsible for training physicians in residency and fellowship programs and rural hospitals, practices and community and health centers.  Physicians who train in rural settings are more likely to return to practice in them and better understand the needs of those communities.  As Maine’s population continues to age, it is critical that we train more health care professionals where they are needed.  This opportunity will better prepare tomorrow’s physicians to care for those in the State of Maine.”

“At a time when hospitals and providers across the state are facing unprecedented workforce shortages, expanding our training programs through statewide projects that bring multi-disciplinary groups together to collaborate is critical,” said Sally Weiss, Vice President of Workforce Policy and Strategic Initiatives for the Maine Hospital Association. “These initiatives supported by the Mills Administration will strengthen and grow Maine’s rural health care workforce for years to come.”

This award is the latest investment from the Mills Administration to address Maine’s workforce challenges, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jobs Plan dedicated more than $300 million for workforce programs, and has created 22,000 apprenticeship, career and education advancement, and job training opportunities for Maine people. 

The Jobs Plan includes $20 million to directly strengthen Maine’s vital health care workforce and improve health care for Maine people: 

  • Scholarships and student loan relief to enable more people to become behavioral health specialists, long term support workers, emergency medical services staff, and other health professionals. 
  • Healthcare Training for ME, a program to expand the availability of free and low-cost career training to help health care workers advance their careers, support workforce training needs of health care employers, and attract new workers to fast-growing fields. 
  • The Caring for ME campaign to educate and encourage residents to become direct care providers serving older Mainers and people with disabilities, as well as scholarships and student loan relief to enable more people to become long-term support workers and other health professionals.
  • Respite for ME, a program which provides grants of up to $2,000 to Maine families who are caring for a family member at home.
  • Increasing funding to restore scholarships available from the Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship, which supports students enrolled in the Tufts University School of Medicine Maine Medical Center Maine Track Program and the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity. For more about Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, visit maine.gov/jobsplan.

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