Recently, Governor Nixon has been promoting the “Caring for Missourians” initiative that he asked the General Assembly to approve this past session. The program diverts $40 million over 26 higher education institutions to address the ever thinning health-care professional shortage throughout the state, but places no specific requirement to Universities that the funds be used for “Caring for Missourians”. It is the sole discretion of our Universities and Colleges on how to use these one-time funds.
Funding for “Caring for Missourians” has been appropriated through Fiscal Year 2010 Federal one-time stabilization funds. Southeast Missouri residents will benefit by Southeast Missouri State University receiving $1,166,806, Three Rivers Community College receiving $363,924, and Mineral Area Community College receiving $338,100. Governor Nixon hopes of the additional money to eventually train and graduate more than 900 additional Missouri students in the field of health-care over the next five years; a very worthy priority.
It is no secret that our state is in dire need of more health professionals. According to the Nixon Administration, Missouri hospitals are facing a shortage of more than 7% for Registered Nurses, 6% shortage of pharmacists, 8% for both physical and occupational therapists, and a 7% shortage of medical laboratory technicians. The “Caring for Missourians” program stands to not only train and educate medical professionals to meet the drastically high demand for health-care; it also stands to bolster our struggling economy.
The logistics of the initiative will be to hold each individual college or university responsible for spending the increased appropriation on developing a specific plan to maximize the benefit of those funds for expanding healthcare training programs. According to Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins in a June 9th article in the Southeast Missourian, he has said that “the University will use the money, about $1.2 million, to hire two faculty members. An accelerated nursing program, which will accommodate 10 students, will be added for students who have already completed a science degree. They will be able to complete a nursing degree in 18 months. The money will also be used to enhance teaching labs and expand the nurse practitioner program to include six more slots.”
“Caring for Missourians” is clearly a commendable program. However, I am concerned with a few issues. The first being the potential lack of oversight and eligibility requirements. As of now, there are no measures to ensure that only Missouri residents will be selected to fill the increased educational slots. Missouri taxpayer dollars could very well be paying to help students from another state have increased access to education and training. The second issue of concern I have is that the program offers no safeguard from students leaving our state once they have obtained their education via “Caring for Missourians”. It does Missouri no good to use taxpayer dollars to educate individuals, only to have them go work in Kansas or Illinois immediately upon graduation. Lastly, I am concerned with sustainable funding for the program. It is the General Assembly’s position that the funding for “Caring for Missouri” comes from Federal one-time funds and is not intended to be recurrent in nature.
I raise these concerns because of the June 9th Southeast Missourian newspaper article, where Dr. Dobbins, is quoted as saying, “the University will not institute similar policies because they are not necessary”. He also said in the article, “The majority of students stay in Missouri after completing their education.” It is my opinion that the “Caring for Missourians” initiative should be targeted only to Missouri resident students and those who agree to stay in Missouri upon graduation but I want to know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? Please let me know.
Overall, I believe that the program is more than worthy of the one-time Federal funds. The money will go a long way in not only meeting our high demand for health professionals, but may also help move our economy forward. But should it benefit Missourians first and foremost?
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Crowell concerned about "Caring for Missourians" program
In his latest Crowell Connection, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, expresses concerns about the "Caring for Missourians" program: