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Health and Social Services

Alaska's SHARP Program

What is the SHARP Program?

Alaska's SHARP Program (SHARP) is our statewide support-for-service effort that provides partial financial support to healthcare practitioners in medical, dental, behavioral health and some other disciplines. It is a public-private partnership working to improve the recruitment, retention, and distribution of health professionals for Alaska. SHARP offers two types of support-for-service benefit, either (a) education loan repayment, or (b) direct incentive, to practitioners in support of their work, and especially with Alaska's priority populations. Alaska's SHARP Program has two components: SHARP-1 and SHARP-3.

SHARP Council

SHARP has an oversight body termed the Alaska SHARP Council (Council), which is established in state law (AS 18.29), and associated regulation. Council also serves as the guidance structure for Alaska's grant #H56CR25037 with the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Council provides guidance to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) as regards both SHARP-1 and SHARP-3. The Council consists of members with health care expertise, including expertise in economic issues affecting the hiring and retention of health care professionals in the state. There are 15 voting members and currently five more members that serve ex-officio. An employee of the department may only serve as a non-voting member. Council meets at least quarterly and may issue formal recommendations about (a) policy or procedure; and/or (b) any aspects of practitioner-specific program admittances and participation. In addition, Council has two standing sub-committees, those being the Admissions Committee, and our Partnership Funding Committee.

SHARP-1

SHARP-1 was and remains Alaska's fundamental state-operated support-for-service program effort. It is based on the state's receipt of periodic, competitive Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) partnership grants from the federal State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). Alaska has now received four such grants from HRSA. All SHARP-1 contracts are partially HRSA-funded, with the remainder of funds derived from assorted non-federal sources, including the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and the employers themselves. SHARP-1 contracts are only for licensed generalist practitioners who provide healthcare services in federally designated Health Professionals Shortage Areas (HPSA), and mostly in outpatient primary care clinics. These licensed practitioners can be in medical, dental, or behavioral health disciplines.

The SHARP-1 service contract is a two-year service obligation, with a very serious focus on retention throughout the contract period. The financial benefit type is only for repayment of eligible education loan debt. Interested persons can receive a copy of the SHARP-1 service contract by clicking into the following web-portal SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

SHARP-1 Eligibility Checklist

Alaska's SHARP-1 program option is based on our now-traditional HRSA partnership grant. Thus, HRSA has several stipulations as to basic eligibility requirements for SHARP-1. The list of those basic requirements includes at the following terms.

Practitioners must:

  • Work in an eligible medical, dental, or behavioral health occupation
  • Provide direct patient care (at least some)
  • Provide primary care typically as a clinic-based (outpatient) generalist
  • Have eligible education loan debt (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 relatively soon after applying (within weeks or months, not years)
  • Be a U.S. citizen (or naturalized)

Employers must:

  • Be a non-profit or government entity (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)
  • Pay a partial employer match, which is invoiced quarterly

Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)

SHARP-1 employers must have the federal designation of a "Health Professional Shortage Area" (HPSA). The needed HPSA designation can be either facility-specific, or, an assigned characteristic of the whole service catchment area, or population served. (Notice that the requirement for having a HPSA is for SHARP-1, but that this requirement does not exist for SHARP-3. The federal government has an excellent, simple, web-based search engine regarding HPSAs, which anyone can use to find out whether a facility or locality has a HPSA designation. To use this, go to: HPSA Search (HRSA)

SHARP-3

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) opened our new SHARP-3 option on 01-04-21. Now that SHARP-3 is open, it will remain open; that is, there is no "sunset date," etc. In statute (Ch. 115 SLA 19; AS 18.29), SHARP-3 is known as the "Health Care Professionals Workforce Enhancement Program."

The intent of the SHARP-3 is to increase the availability of health care services throughout the state, and especially to individuals who are underserved, or in health care professional shortage areas or in rural locales. SHARP-3 is expected to help expand the number and distribution of practitioners across a broad range of disciplines. Important differences between our traditional SHARP-1 option and new SHARP-3 include that: SHARP-1 only provides education loan repayment and only for licensed primary care practitioners (largely) working as outpatient generalists, located in federal Health Professionals Shortage Areas (HPSAs). However, SHARP-3 allows for a very much broader range of practitioner occupations, practice settings and locales; and SHARP-3 allows for either education loan repayment or direct incentive; and a possible broad range of potential financial contributors to resource the service contracts. Further, SHARP allows for both those healthcare practitioners who provide direct patient care, as well as for those employees who do not directly provide patient care.

SHARP-3 is Alaska's third state-operated support-for-service program effort, and was created by unanimous legislative passage of SB-93 in May 2019, which became law (AS 18.29) on August 1, 2019. The regulations were signed by the Lt. Governor on 11/24/20 and became effective 12/25/20 as 7 AAC 24. SHARP-3 features (a) the possibility of advanced blended funding; (b) reference to federal law (PL 111-148, Sec 10908) that allows for federal tax exemption as regards education loan repayment; (c) pre-authorization of registered employers; and (d) a range of possible financial contributors.

The SHARP-3 service contract is a three-year service obligation, with a very serious focus on retention throughout the period of contract. Interested persons can receive a copy of the SHARP-3 service contract by clicking into the following web-portal SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

SHARP-3 Manual

A SHARP-3 Guidelines Manual is available to help answer technical questions that any interested party may have. A copy of the Manual can be obtained simply by clicking into SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

SHARP Application Process

Application Forms

Know that the program's application forms for both SHARP-1 and SHARP-3 are now the SAME. The respondent simply "checks-off" which component (program option) that he/she is interested in applying for: SHARP-1, or SHARP-3, or either.

There is an application for both parties: The Practitioner Application, and the Employer Application. You can access these forms by clicking SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

The Practitioner Application has two parts: (1) the Practitioner Application per se; and (b) the Loan & Lender form (if practitioner is seeking education loan repayment benefit). As well, the Employer Application has two parts: (1) the Organization Application form; and (b) the Position Application form. Know that only one Organization form is needed per employer, however, a different Position form is required for each occupation-type requested (e.g., different licensed disciplines, etc.). There is no charge for applying to SHARP. Further, no other cost(s) are anticipated to result from this application process, and SHARP will not pay any cost for application preparation or submission.

Practitioners and Employers Can Apply Separately

Parties that want to participate but that have not yet found a "match-up" may still apply. Indeed, this may help employers and practitioners to find a match. HOWEVER, the eventual actual participation in SHARP requires a signed three-way service contract, the parties of which being the employer, the practitioner, and the State of Alaska. SHARP urges interested practitioners to begin dialogue with their current or prospective employers at their earliest opportunity. SHARP may be able to help practitioner and employer applicants find partner "matches." The intent of SHARP is assisting in establishing and growing the relationship between practitioners and respective employers. That said, SHARP is not a "placement agency" nor a "headhunter group," etc.; the onus of finding a job falls to the applicant.

Timelines

SHARP-1 — Regular Cycle: The regular applicant-solicitation cycle is now closed as planned (as of 6/18/21). This means that no further admittances to SHARP-1 will occur until on or after February 2022.

SHARP-1 applications are being accepted on an ongoing (continuous) basis, however. The program is now accepting SHARP-1 applications both from practitioners and from employers. This is because we expect another round of very significant funding to begin during Spring 2022. Note that we are encouraging SHARP-1 applications throughout the year, but there will be no admittance decisions on these applications until February 2022. Further, the resulting waiting-list will not be rank-ordered by the receipt-date of applications.

SHARP-1 — Off-Cycle: Know that even though the SHARP-1 regular cycle is now closed, there is always the option for the employer to elect the "SHARP-1 Off-Cycle Option." In the SHARP-1 Off-Cycle Option, all the contract terms are the same as in the regular cycle, with the sole exception being that the employer must pay most all the practitioner's support-for-service benefit (except $1,000). Program admittance decisions regarding these off-cycle contracts are made quickly, that is, each within a month. Typically, the off-cycle option is for those employers who must make a critical, and time-sensitive, recruitment or retention offer as regards a given practitioner.

SHARP-3: The solicitation for this option opened on 01-04-21. SHARP-3 is open for applications now and will remain so. The Admissions Committee decides on SHARP-3 applications monthly.

Selection Process

The Admissions Committee of Alaska's SHARP Council convenes monthly in publicly noticed meetings to discuss any newly submitted applications that have been received during the preceding month. The committee reviews and selects from the presented pool of eligible applicants. Recommended applicants may then be proffered a SHARP service contract.

SHARP Service Contract

To participate in Alaska's SHARP Program, the individual and the respective employer must have a signed service contract offered by the State of Alaska. This service contract is also known as the "memorandum of agreement," or MOA. Both the SHARP-1 and SHARP-3 options have their own contracts, and while there are many similarities, there are also some key differences. Anyone can immediately receive a generic inspection-copy of either contract upon request, by clicking into our web-portal found at SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

Program Monitoring

Quarterly Work Reports

We have two main methods by which we monitor the SHARP program. One of those is by the required use of a standard Quarterly Work Report (QWR) by all practitioners and their employers. The web-link for the QWR is: Quarterly Work Report

PRISM

The other method is by the required used of PRISM, which provides a standardized and state-of-the-art way for states to gather real-time data from clinicians as they serve in States' and the National Health Service Corps' (NHSC) loan repayment, scholarship, and other incentive programs. This retention data gathering system routinely surveys clinicians as they serve in these public programs to provide quality, consistent, real-time, convenient, and ongoing data to inform the management and retention of clinicians in service programs. (PRISM was previously known as "Practice Sights.") Interested parties can learn more about PRISM by clicking into the following web-link: About PRISM

More Information

DHSS Public Notices

Principal program updates are also posted to the Alaska DHSS Public Notices website.

Questions? Submit an Inquiry

Please pose all inquiries about this opportunity via our web-portal. You get a same-day answer to your question(s) almost always, and often immediately. And, by using our "Inquiries Submission" web-portal, there is the added advantage that your interest in SHARP is automatically logged, and you are sent preliminary information right then. This registration also allows SHARP to be able to send you program updates. Inquire by clicking   SHARP Inquiry Submission Form

Disability Accommodation

If you are a person with a disability that requires special accommodation in order to apply, please contact Robert Sewell, SHARP Director, at robert.sewell@alaska.gov or 907-465-4065. Please do so no later than five days before the accommodation is required to ensure that the needed accommodation(s) can be provided.

Program Funding

Alaska's SHARP Program is operated by the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services.

SHARP-1 service contracts are resourced jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) grant #H56CR25037, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and required partial employer match.

SHARP-3 contracts can be funded by "any available source" (per AS 18.29). Employer payment is necessary for SHARP-3, but the ultimate source of funds can come from a wide variety of entities such as private philanthropy, hospital foundations, private for-profit businesses, regional native organizations, trade associations, government (locale, state and federal), employers and individuals.

Robert Sewell, MA, Ph.D., Program Director
SHARP — Alaska's Healthcare Workforce Incentive Program
Office of Healthcare Access, Sec Rural & Community Health Systems
Division of Public Health, Alaska DHSS
Phone (907) 465-4065, E-mail: robert.sewell@alaska.gov