To The Editor:
The Northern Area Health Education Center, Inc. (NAHEC) is a non-profit agency dedicated to development of the healthcare workforce in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Clinton and Franklin counties. We represent a vastly rural and medically underserved region. All of our counties have been designated as a Health Professions Shortage Area (HPSA) in the area of mental health and all except Clinton have been designated by the Federal government as a Medically Underserved Area (MUA).
In the face of an extreme health professions shortage, the NAHEC strategy has been to promote a grow our own approach, wherein local individuals are encouraged to pursue health careers. In addition, NAHEC often recruits health professions students from outside the region to complete their clinical training here so as to encourage them to practice in the NAHEC region upon graduation. The number of clinical training slots in our region is finite and currently at capacity. Even at full capacity, the number of available clinical training slots in inadequate. Each year, the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center accepts over 100 health professions students for clinical training. Losing access to this number of clinical training slots is truly irreplaceable as no other healthcare institution will be able to fill the void.
In addition, the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center currently acts as a draw for visiting psychiatrists, particularly child psychiatrists. Without the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, many local communities will lose access to the vital services provided by visiting psychiatrists.
As an agency dedicated to improving access to healthcare by ensuring there are sufficient numbers and distribution of trained health professionals, we offer our strong support for the continued operation of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. It is a resource our communities cannot afford to lose.