(Joplin, MO) – Ozark Center administrators thanked U.S. Representative Billy Long for his past support of funding for residency programs as they welcomed the congressman for a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, August 17.
“We are very grateful that Congress, including Representative Long, reauthorized the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program for three years,” said Ozark Center Chief Administrative Officer Vicky Mieseler. “We are also grateful for the additional $330 million appropriated in March in the American Rescue Plan Act, which permits the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the expansion of existing THCs and add new THCs around the country. Ozark Center will soon apply for some of that funding to increase its residency program from twelve to sixteen participants.”
A bill now in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3671), the Doctors of Community Act, would permanently reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program and expand the number of resident physician slots, as well. The DOC Act would significantly improve healthcare access for rural and urban medically underserved areas by training and producing primary care physicians to serve these populations in the future.
Congressman Long shared his concerns about mental health saying, “It is a much-needed field in our country today, and especially with the advent of COVID-19, the mental health needs are off the charts.”
Congressman Long heard from Ozark Center officials urging his support of the DOC Act. He also talked with current psychiatry residents working at Ozark Center about how the program benefits their professional development while also offering services to the community. Dr. Nauman Ashraf is the program director for the Kansas City University Graduate Medical Education (KCU-GME) Consortium/Ozark Center and oversees the twelve psychiatry residents.
“We have noticed an increase in the number of patients presenting with anxiety issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Ashraf. “Our residents have been at the forefront of delivering compassionate care and helping these patients maintain hope during this crisis.”
“The DOC Act ensures that each state will have at least one TCH, which is an improvement over the current presence of THCs in only half our states,” said Mieseler. “Growing the number of residents in training will make an important long-term impact on the physician shortage, which impacts the health of many Americans.”
After hearing from psychiatric residents about their fears that funding to complete a residency program are currently not guaranteed, Congressman Long shared that he understands their concern because his daughter went to medical school.
“Until a few years ago I didn’t realize a child could go through four years of undergraduate and three years of medical school and then stand a good chance of not getting in a residency program,” Long explained. “There’s a lot bigger need than there are residency programs, and we need to expand funding for all the years through residency and the ability to get into a residency program.”
Ozark Center is an entity of Freeman Health System which is a teaching hospital that supports several residency programs including Ozark Center psychiatric residency, Freeman internal medicine residency, Freeman ENT residency and Freeman emergency medicine residency. All are part of the KCU-GME Consortium.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020-2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.
About Ozark Center:
Ozark Center is based in Joplin, Missouri and has been an entity of Freeman Health System since 1996. It has been providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults and families since 1965 in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from the Four States. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the behavioral health needs of the community and promote awareness of behavioral health issues in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.
Lisa Olliges, Freeman Health System
Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator