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 California Commission Lays Out Plan to Drastically Boost Health Care Workforce

The California Future Health Workforce Commission has released a $3 billion plan containing 27 recommendations aimed at closing workforce gaps by 2030, declaring that the state faces a growing and dramatic dearth of workers across the care continuum, notably in geographies with large African American and Latino populations,

The report submitted to new California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was two years in the making and said that in many parts of the state the workforce crisis is already here. “Seven million Californians, the majority of them Latino, African American, and Native American, already live in Health Professional Shortage Areas — a federal designation for counties experiencing shortfalls of primary care, dental care, or mental health care providers,” the report said.

These shortages are most severe in some of the state’s largest and fastest-growing regions, such as the Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley, and in most rural areas. Adding to the dire situation, the report said a generation of baby boomers is set to retire, including a large chunk of the health care workforce.

“And, as living costs rise and the state’s production of health workers continues to lag growing demands, millions more Californians will find it difficult to access quality, affordable care,” the report said. In 10 years, for example, California is expected to face a shortfall of more than 4,100 primary care clinicians and will have only two-thirds of the psychiatrists it needs.

To guide efforts, the commission issued 27 recommendations within three key strategies that will be necessary for: 1.) increasing opportunities for all Californians to advance in health professions; 2.) aligning and expanding education and training; and 3.) strengthening the capacity, retention, and effectiveness of health care workers.

In reaction to the report, the head of the state’s leading advocacy group for long term and post-acute care providers tells Provider the effort to solve the workforce shortage problem is welcome news.

“We are gratified that the critical workforce shortage issue is finally getting some needed attention,” says Craig Cornett, chief executive officer, California Association of Health Facilities, the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

“We’re also pleased that our newly elected governor acknowledged workforce issues and the need to get ready for a major demographic shift by calling for a Master Plan on Aging in his State of the State address.”

Cornett added that Newsom’s creation of an Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, headed up by former California first lady Maria Shriver, is also a step in the right direction.

Of the 27 recommendations in the commission report, 10 were called priorities needing immediate attention. The top three are:

1.     Expand and scale pipeline programs to recruit and prepare students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds for health careers with mentorship, academic, career, and psychosocial support. Under these health pipeline programs, as many as 5,700 low-income and underrepresented minority professionals will be able to join the California health care workforce during a 10-year period at a cost of $11,000 per person.

2.     Recruit and support college students, including community college students, from underrepresented regions and backgrounds to pursue health careers, and form associated partnerships that provide academic, advising, and health career development support. College students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds will be targeted for inclusion in this priority, which has the potential to add at least 25,500 new California health care workers over 10 years.

3.     Support scholarships for qualified students who pursue priority health professions and serve in underserved communities under a new Emerging California Health Leaders Scholarship Program. Approximately 3,810 students (1,707 physicians, 696 nurse practitioners, 152 physician assistants, 325 public health professionals, and 930 social workers) would be supported over the next 10 years.

Other priorities include expanding other medical education programs, recruiting in rural areas, and maximizing the role and number of nurse practitioners.

Read the full report at www.futurehealthworkforce.rog.

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