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Collaboration creating health care solutions for Valley residents
Grant offers debt relief for Nurse Practitioner students
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Local nonprofits are giving a $1.9 million boost to help solve the healthcare provider shortage in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Legacy Health Endowment is working with and providing a $1.6 million grant to Livingston Community Health to help launch the Master’s Degree in Family Medicine (Nurse Practitioner Program) at Stanislaus State, as well as debt relief for nursing graduates.

Stanislaus Community Foundation is providing an additional $300,000 to support outreach to area high schools and career navigation.

“California State University, Stanislaus has one of the best nursing programs in the state. Building on that program and the expertise of the staff was a natural fit,” said LHE President and CEO Jeffrey Lewis.

“We could not be more grateful for this transformational gift, which will significantly enhance the Stanislaus State School of Nursing,” said Stan State President Ellen Junn. “Our University is here for the purpose of preparing our region’s workforce, and there is a great need for nurse practitioners in the Central Valley.”

A major part of this grant will fund tuition relief for students in the program who agree to live and work as nurse practitioners within the 19 zip codes served by Legacy Health Foundation (which includes Turlock, Patterson, Hughson, Livingston and Atwater, among others) for at least three years after graduation.

These areas suffer from an acute shortage of medical providers. A March 2017 report commissioned by LHE and prepared by Public Health Advocates found that only 43 percent of the need for nurse practitioners in the area is being provided. Research has shown that nurse practitioners play a key role in improving access to healthcare, allowing physicians’ offices to provide care to a greater number of patients.

The new degree program at Stanislaus State began this month with a total of 24 students, who are expected to graduate in December 2019. Lewis said that already nine students have shown interest in the debt relief program, and if they proceed with the grant, they will be required to live and work in the area for three years.

“We are honored to work with Legacy Health Endowment and begin to rebuild the healthcare infrastructure in Stanislaus and Merced counties. As we build programs to educate, retain and recruit physicians, it is also important to ensure that we recognize the value and importance that Nurse Practitioners can contribute,” said Livingston Community Health President Leslie McGowan.

The debt relief program also gives local children a greater opportunity to obtain a professional degree and use it for the benefit of their communities.

“Stanislaus Community Foundation views this partnership as the first step in addressing the healthcare needs of our residents. SCF also recognizes we need to build a coordinated education infrastructure to ensure that we have programs in place to educate our residents and provide access to well-paying and in-demand healthcare jobs,” said Marian Kaanon, President and CEO of Stanislaus Community Foundation. 

Lewis said support of the Nurse Practitioner Program is just the first step in a series of things planned to address the healthcare shortage in the area.

“It’s time for the rhetoric to stop and action to occur,” he said.

Lewis said that where state and federal government has failed to address the infrastructure challenges and overall healthcare shortage, philanthropic collaborations can assist in creating change — a sentiment shared with McGowan.

“The future of healthcare in the Central Valley will not be solved in Washington, D.C. It will take the collaboration, vision and commitment that LHE and LCH can bring.”