The Senate passed on first and final reading a bill that will establish a Behavioral Health Professional Scholarship in the CNMI to address the shortage of behavioral health professionals among U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the Commonwealth.
Such professionals refer to psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, social workers, and substance abuse professionals.
All eight senators present at the session voted “yes” to pass Senate Bill No. 21-40 in the form of Senate Draft 1. The bill will go to the House.
Vice president Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) introduced the legislation in September 2019. It was then referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare for disposition.
The purpose of the bill is to establish a behavioral health professional scholarship for five eligible students who aspire to obtain a master’s degree in a behavioral health field.
In exchange, the scholarship recipients must return to the CNMI and work at the Commonwealth Health Center, Community Guidance Center, Tinian Health Center, Rota Health Center, or the Public School System for a certain number of years.
The amount allocated for each master’s degree scholarship shall be $10,000 per annum per students enrolled in a graduate program at a college or university in the U.S. or its territories or at any Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education partner institution for a period of up to two years.local
Before the voting, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (D-Rota) said the CNMI should seek CNMI students who are in the United States who already have advance degrees in behavioral health field. He said there are a lot of CNMI students who already have attained advanced degree in the U.S. mainland and it’s just a matter of recruiting them and giving them a good salary so they can be enticed to come back to the Commonwealth.
“I support this [bill] but, on the other hand, we should also be trying to reach out to these students who are presently in the U.S.,” the senator said.