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SHARP Loan Repayment for Primary Health-care Practitioners

Proper health care solutions are crucial to the future of our state and the overall vitality of our people. Alaska’s current health care system is in need of changes that empower patients and health care providers, increase the number of providers throughout the state, and decrease costs for both the state and individuals.

-DHSS biannual external newsletter, “Winter Update:  2014-2015”

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Alaska's SHARP Program

Alaska's SHARP Support-for-Service​​ Program offers student loan repayment, and in some cases direct incentive payments, to eligible medical, dental, and behavioral health practitioners. This website contains information about SHARP-1, Alaska's foundation loan repayment program. It also contains information about SHARP-3, which is still in development. Practitioners apply for SHARP through an established application process. Application periods vary according to program.


The SHARP-1 Loan Repayment Program Regular Application Cycle is Now Open through July 10, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. (AT).
The SHARP-1 application for Practitioners and Employer Sites is now in JotForm, an online application tool.
 
Practitioner Application
 
Employer Application 
Application Announcement - 2020
A PUBLIC NOTICE has been issued for a SHARP-1 application cycle beginning May 1, 2020 and running through July 10, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. (AT). Learn details at the Application Announcement.
Increased Availability of SHARP-1 due to New Health Professional Shortage Areas for Anchorage and Mat-Su.

For more information click on Public Notice – Medicaid

This announcement highlights that there are now four newly designated Medicaid Eligible Special Population Health Professional Shortage Areas for Alaska.  Those designations are in the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Boroughs. They are:
 
Anchorage Borough
•    Primary Care Anchorage (Score 15)
•    Dental Health Anchorage (Score 15)
•    Mental Health Anchorage (Score 16)
 
Mat-Su Borough
•    Primary Care Matanuska Susitna (Score 15)
 

An off-cycle application opportunity is currently available.
For more information on the off-cycle opportunity see the link below, Contract-3: Off Cycle Contracts.

    SHARP Advisory Council: Announcement of Council Business Meeting – August 19, 2020

    The SHARP Advisory Council will hold a scheduled business meeting 8/19/20 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Refer to the Online Public Notice for details.

     

Public Comment period now open for our SHARP-1 regulation-change.

 


BRIEF DESCRIPTION
The Alaska Department of Health & Social Services proposes to adopt regulations entitled 7 AAC 80.030. Fees for Department Services. Fee schedule and procedures.  The intent of the proposed regulations change follows: Adopt regulations to administer the program, including an administrative fee for each contract and fiscal agent services.
 
WRITTEN COMMENT
You may comment on the proposed regulation changes, including the potential costs to private persons of complying with the proposed changes, by submitting written comments to the State of Alaska, Department of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Health, Section of Rural & Community Health Systems, SHARP Program, Attn: Robert Sewell, P.O. Box 110616, Juneau, AK 99811-0616. Additionally, the Department of Health & Social Services will accept comments by facsimile at (907) 465-4101 and by electronic mail at sharp.inquiry@alaska.gov . The comments must be received not later than 5 p.m. on July 6, 2020.
 
ORAL COMMENT
You may provide oral comments relevant to the proposed action via telephone at the hearing to be held on June 22, 2020, by calling 1-888-392-4560, and using the participant access code number 5818485#. Please note that in- person attendance will not be permitted at the hearing site because of the public health and safety concerns associated with the COVID – 19 pandemic. Please prepare to share your oral comments by telephone only. If you call to provide oral testimony, you should be on the line before the hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. The Department of Health & Social Services will give priority to those who call in before 12:00 p.m. The Department of Health & Social Services may, before the hearing begins, limit the time allotted for each person providing oral testimony. The time limit may be necessary to conclude the hearing in the time provided.
 

SHARP-1: Alaska's State Loan Repayment Program

    SHARP-1 – Checklist for Eligibility to Apply
    Basic Required Elements

    Alaska’s SHARP-1 program option is based on our now-traditional HRSA partnership grant. Thus, know that HRSA has several stipulations as to basic eligibility requirements. The list of those basic requirements (at least) includes the following items.

    Clinicians must:

    • Be in an eligible medical, dental or behavioral health occupation
    • Provide direct patient care (at least some)
    • Provide primary care (outpatient, ambulatory clinic); generalist
    • Have eligible education loan debt only (in your name only; & not co-mingled)
    • Plan on participating in either full-time or half-time capacity
    • Be finished with licensure-relevant school/training
    • Hold a relevant occupational license
    • Be able to start contract soon (e.g. between Oct & Dec)
    • Be a U.S. citizen (or naturalized)

    Employers must:

    • Be a non-profit or government entities (and not for-profit)
    • Have or be located within a federal HPSA designation
    • Provide outpatient, clinic based care (in most all instances) (if inpatient services, then only at CAHs in HPSAs, or tribal hospitals)
    • Be Prepared to pay required employer match

    Important:

    The interested party CAN submit an application, even though any of these are items are NOT YET true. However, in order for the SHARP contract to actually begin (i.e. service credit begins to accrue), then all of these elements must be true.

    If you still need clarification as to meaning on any of these items, please send an email request to sharp.inquiry@alaska.gov​

    Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) Designation


    Use data.HRSA.gov to determine HPSA scores in regions around Alaska
    You can determine the HPSA scores for regions, facilities, and tribal health organizations throughout Alaska by using the Health Resources and Services Administration's HPSA Find website.
    Go to data.HRSA.gov and click on Find Shortage Areas. Once on this page select Search HPSAs by State/County.


    SHARP-1: Recruitment and Retention

    The purpose of the SHARP-I program option is to recruit and retain selected primary health care professionals to serve in federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) in exchange for the repayment of qualifying educational loans, pursuant to a signed SHARP MOA with the State of Alaska. 

    Service Contract

    Interested parties can view an inspection copy of the current SHARP-I Memorandum of Agreement:

    Service Contract Benefit

    Education loan-debt repayment support is paid in an amount of up to the maximum annual benefit for the practitioner.

    • Those maximum amounts are: Tier-1: $35,000 - $47,000, and Tier-2: $20,000 - $27,000, with the maximum amounts (within each Tier) dependent upon whether the position is categorized as “regular fill” vs. “very hard-to-fill.”
    • All SHARP education loan repayments are exempt from federal personal income tax according to federal regulation. 
    • SHARP’s support-for-service awards are strictly in addition to (and are not a supplanting of) the clinician’s regular employer-provided wage and benefit. 
    • Once a practitioner has received and completed an initial two-year contract award, and remains in good standing, he/she is welcome to apply again.  However, all applications occur through the SHARP program’s standard competitive process. 
    • Receiving an initial contract does not automatically ensure receipt of a second contract.

SHARP is moving to a new, and improved Quarterly Work Report format


Use of new “JotForm” format begins for THIS quarter (CY’20-Q1), with “Report Month” in April.
 
Your agency’s SHARP Site Rep. is the person who submits your Quarterly Report.
•    Clinicians can certainly assist your Site Rep in preparation.
•    SHARP will no longer accept the old PDF form.
•    As well, SHARP will only accept the QWR, via the JotForm, from the Site Rep.
 
All of the questions (fields) are the same as on the old PDF form.
•    Also, the quarterly submission time remains the same.
 
As to work-flow, the Site Rep completes the QWR JotForm.
•    Then, the form-with-date is automatically sent to the clinician for inspection.
 
Web-link to SHARP Quarterly Work Report JotForm. 

    BASICS OF SHARP-I

    Eligible Occupations

    Tier-1: Award Amount $35,000 per year; Very Hard-to-Fill $47,000 per year.
    • Primary Care Physician (MD or DO), includes Psychiatrists
    • Pharmacist
    • Dentist (DDS or DMD)
    • Psychologist (Clinical or Counseling)
    • Nurse Practitioner with Doctorate
    Tier-2: Award Amount $20,000; Very Hard-to-Fill $27,000 per year.
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Physician Assistant
    • Registered Nurse
    • Certified Nurse Midwife
    • Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
    • Psychiatric Nurse Specialist (PNS)
    • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
    • Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT)
    • Registered Clinical Dental Hygienist

Technical Assistance for Those Applying for SHARP-1:

Important Notice about Concurrent Service Obligations

Concurrent service obligations are not allowed in the SHARP Program. SHARP participants can only receive one support-for-service award. In some cases an employer will offer the clinician a signing bonus and/or moving expenses as a service obligation. Clinicians who receive these benefits can participate in the SHARP Program as long as the employer stipulates that these benefits don’t constitute a service obligation.

    Funding

    SHARP is operated by the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, and is jointly supported by funds from several sources including the State of Alaska’s General Fund, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), and required partial employer match.


    Employer Agencies in Alaska that have Used the SHARP Program


    Looking for a health care job in Alaska?

    Frequently we are asked by clinicians interested in working in Alaska about the best way to find a job, or if we can help them find a job. We emphasize that we are not a job referral agency. In general we do not know which health care agencies are recruiting for which positions. We do, however, want clinicians and employers to get acquainted with the goal of providing health care in under-served areas of the state.

    We have reached out to Alaska health care facilities and asked them to provide contact information to enabled candidates to inquire about health care opportunities. Many facilities have responded generously with the names and email addresses of staff to contact about employment. The websites of these facilities are also provided. Job searchers should go to the websites to see specifically which jobs are available.

    It continues to be our mission to build the Alaska health care workforce. As employers continue to send their contact information to us we will update this list of recruiting agencies. This list is not all inclusive and only contains the information that health care facilities have sent us. You should use this list as a way to develop a network of contacts and to become better acquainted with the health care system in Alaska.

    As part of your search for health care opportunities in Alaska you should also register with 3RNet, the Rural Recruitment and Retention Network for employers and candidates.

    SHARP-3: Looking into the Future

    A new component to Alaska’s SHARP Program, SHARP-3, is still in development. The now-open Public Comment Period will last 60 days and is required before SHARP-3 opens for applications.


    The purpose of SHARP is to address the increasing shortage of certain health professionals in the state by increasing the number and expanding the distribution of health professionals. SHARP works to enhance recruitment and retention of health professionals to serve in state-designated locations and facilities in exchange for the repayment of qualifying education loans or payment of direct incentive, pursuant to a signed SHARP contract.  Our traditional, long-enduring SHARP-1 component continues to present.  Now, our new SHARP-3 component will soon open.
     
    The purpose of SHARP-3 is to expand program eligibilities greatly as to occupation, practice setting, and locale.  SHARP-3 is to allow for multiple funding source, tax exemption for loan repayment, the establishment of a multi-year operations fund, adjustable funding-source proportions between employer and contributor, pre-authorization of registered employers, and a broad range of possible contributors.  The intent of SHARP-3 is to increase the availability of healthcare services throughout the state, especially to individuals who are underserved or in health care professional shortage or rural areas.
     
    Alaska’s SHARP-3 program option was established through the passage of SB-93 in Alaska’s 31st Legislature, and is also known as the Health Care Professionals Workforce Enhancement Program (Chapter 15, SLA 19) and enacted as Alaska Statute AS 18.29. It is operated by the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services and exclusively supported by non- federal sources, including from employers and other contributors.
     
    The planned SHARP-3 service contract will be available for inspection throughout SHARP-3’s upcoming Public Comment Period. A web-link to the SHARP-3 service contract is provided here below.


    SHARP-3 Statute and Proposed Regulations


    NOTICE OF PROPOSED CHANGES ON THE HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS WORKFORCE ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM IN THE REGULATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES.

    For the SHARP-3 Statute click on SHARP-3 Statute
    For the SHARP-3 Proposed Regulations click on 
     
    The Department of Health & Social Services proposes to adopt regulations on a workforce enhancement program for health care professionals. The program is a public-private partnership. The purpose of the program is to increase access to health care services for all Alaskans by improving recruitment, retention and distribution of health care professionals. 
     
    WRITTEN COMMENT
    You may comment on the proposed regulation changes, including the potential costs to private persons of complying with the proposed changes, by submitting written comments to the State of Alaska, Department of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Health, Section of Rural & Community Health Systems, SHARP Program, Attn: Robert Sewell, P.O. Box 110616, Juneau, AK 99811-0616. Additionally, the Department of Health & Social Services will accept comments by facsimile at (907) 465-4101 and by electronic mail at sharp.inquiry@alaska.gov . The comments must be received not later than 5 p.m. on July 15, 2020.
     
    ORAL COMMENT
    You may provide oral comments relevant to the proposed action via telephone at the hearing to be held on June 15, 2020, by calling 1-888-392-4560, and using the participant access code number 5818485#. Please note that in- person attendance will not be permitted at the hearing site because of the public health and safety concerns associated with the COVID – 19 pandemic. Please prepare to share your oral comments by telephone only.

    What is the best way to ask about SHARP?

    The best way to ask about the SHARP Program is by email. If you send an email we will have your email address and will be able to alert you to opportunities in the SHARP Program. Please send your email to: sharp.inquiry@alaska.gov.

    Or fill out the SHARP Inquiry Form


  • Robert Sewell, Ph.D., Program Director
    Alaska's SHARP Program
    Section of Rural and Community Health Systems
    P.O. Box 110610
    Juneau, AK 99811-0610
    Email: robert.sewell@alaska.gov
    Phone: (907) 465-4065  
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