Programs to Train Low-Income Workers for Health Sector Jobs to Receive Over $7 Million

- Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, announced that several entities in Wisconsin will receive grants totaling over $7 million as a result of provisions he crafted that were signed into law.  The funding comes in the form of Health Profession Opportunity Grants, which provide low-income individuals with successful training programs for a variety of healthcare professions, including:  home care aides, certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, emergency medical technicians, licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, dental assistants, and health information technicians.  Grantees will also provide additional supportive services such as transportation, dependent care, and temporary housing.  These grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"These new programs are a clear signal of Congress' intent and commitment to build a high-quality health care workforce for our growing population of older Americans," said Chairman Kohl.  "While these programs are being established, it is equally important that we take immediate action in prioritizing funding for geriatrics as part of the overall drive to build up the primary care workforce."
Kohl's provisions incorporated major recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM)'s report, "Retooling for An Aging America:  Building the Health Care Workforce," for improving and expanding the skills and preparedness of  health care practitioners across many disciplines, with a focus on developing particular skills for treating seniors.  Among other programs, the provisions created the Direct Care Worker Demonstration for Personal and Home Care Aides, which provides $5 million per year in mandatory funding for three years to conduct a demonstration in up to six states for development of training programs for personal and home care aides. 
In a recent letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Kohl urged the agency to allow programs that provide training in geriatrics to be eligible for these grants, as geriatric medicine is primary care for older adults.  According to the IOM, less than one percent of all nurses are certified gerontological nurses today, even as the population of older people is on track to double by 2030.  Absent any change, by 2020, the supply of nurses in the United States will fall 29 percent below projected requirements, resulting in a severe shortage of nursing expertise relative to the demand for care of frail older adults.  At a hearing in April 2008, the Senate Special Committee on Aging reviewed key factors that are contributing to the deficiency.
A total of $7,297,628 in Health Profession Opportunity Grants has been designated for:
  • The Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, Inc. in Milwaukee will be receiving $3,401,260.
  • The Gateway Technical College in Kenosha will be receiving $1,828,442.
  • The College of Menominee Nation in Keshena will be receiving $2,067,926.
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Legislative language for Kohl's provisions as included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act can be found in Title V, Subtitle F, Section 5507.