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Vinfen Employees Approved for MassHealth Student Loan Repayment

Three Vinfen employees were approved for student loan repayment through the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers Student Loan Repayment Program. As a human services leader, Vinfen has many staff members who are great candidates for this program. Awardees included Sharon Dinges, who is a Behavioral Health Clinician for Vinfen’s People Care Clinic, Michael Du Bour, Vinfen’s PACT Addiction Specialist in the Cape, and Meghan Hanrahan, Vinfen’s ACCS Team Leader for MMHC.  Each awardee received their acceptance and congratulations from Debra Murphy who is the Senior Vice President of Professional Development & Member Advancement at Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.

The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers was awarded a contract by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to create and implement seven community health workforce initiatives as part of MassHealth’s $1.8 billion Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program. As a part of DSRIP, the Student Loan Repayment Program’s goal is to address the issue of shortages of primary care and behavioral health providers who work in community settings across Massachusetts.

Those who qualify and meet specific eligibility requirements must commence a competitive application process where, if chosen, they can have a portion of their student loan obligations paid for in exchange for a four-year commitment to practice in a community setting. If selected, awardees also must attend quarterly “Learning Days,” which provide educational and networking opportunities of like-minded peers among community-based providers who are in the early stages of their careers.

As part of the extensive application process, applicants are required to submit a variety of essays. Meghan wrote about her vision of health and how she has demonstrated her commitment to that vision, the professional goals that she has set for herself over the next four years at Vinfen, and her perspective on the shift from volume to value based payment and the addition of physical and behavioral health in the health care system of Massachusetts.

Meghan shared her perspective on barriers and obstacles she has faced, having worked both inside and outside the mental health field. These challenges included a lack of resources combined with the misunderstanding of progress the people she served made and their individualized needs from the community. Things turned around when Meghan started at Vinfen in June of 2016. “Within Vinfen, I have felt immense relief at the array of supports, funds, and resources which are available to support people’s mental and physical health,” Meghan shared.  “By shifting the power dynamic, and making the treatment about them, I am hopeful that we will be more able to engage those hesitant to work consistently with providers,” she added.

Meghan not only has a hopeful vision of her future, but she has goals as she continues to advance professionally. With a passion for supervision, she looks forward to demonstrating how dedicated she is to the people served by Vinfen and supporting their goals. “I view working in the field as a marathon, in that regular and frequent self-reflection simply must happen in order to maintain one’s passion and commitment to the people we serve. This retention will in turn increase to continuity and quality of care people receive,” Meghan explains.

“I am extraordinarily honored to have been accepted into the Behavioral Health Workforce Development Program,”  Meghan shared. “The program validates the reality that the shortage of community providers is palpably felt by both people served and those of us supporting people. Increased attrition rates, lapses in consistent services, and the retelling of stories to re-establish a working rapport drastically hinders recovery and can certainly lead to a mistrust of larger systems.  By investing in providers and working to increase longevity of employment in community based settings,  we are creating sustainable careers for those of us who want to support people with mental illness who are underserved and underrepresented.  Thus, increasing the quality and continuity of care delivered to our the people we serve. This program is a tremendous step towards looking at how larger systems trickle down to impact individual lives, and  I am so grateful and excited to be part of this change.”

Sharon, Michael, and Meghan are dedicated individuals, who are now a part of this exciting program that will alleviate some of the financial burdens that they have accrued over the years through obtaining education to pursue their passions.