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Northeast Michigan communities may benefit from healthcare grant

ALPENA — Northeast Michigan may benefit from a $2.5 million federal grant, which will address healthcare staffing shortages in rural communities throughout the state.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity was awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s rural healthcare grant program.

The grant could add more than 430 new health care workers throughout rural counties in Michigan and is designed to help individuals gain the skills necessary to provide needed services, fill vacancies, and allow employers to find skilled workers more readily.

Mike Murray, communication specialist for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Employment and Training, said in an email to The News that Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties are among the 57 rural counties that could benefit from the grant.

It wasn’t immediately clear if, or how much, grant funding could be funneled to Northeast Michigan.

“The program’s rollout has not been finalized, so additional details are not yet available,” Murray said in the email.

State officials will work with Michigan Rural Enhanced Access to Careers in Healthcare, a collective and supportive network of employer-led collaboratives, to identify employer needs and implement workforce solutions for rural communities.

State officials will also engage Michigan Works!, including the Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium.

Stephanie Beckhorn, director of the Office of Employment and Training, said in a news release that rural communities need more workers with in-demand skills to significantly improve access to healthcare as well as strengthen their local economies.

“This funding will help create pathways to in-demand, high-wage jobs for Michigan workers while providing the skilled talent our healthcare employers need to support the communities they serve,” she said.

Michigan U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow sent letters in support of the state’s grant application to the U.S. Department of Labor last year.

Peters, in a January press release, said too many doctors, nurses, custodial workers, and administrators at rural hospitals in Michigan–since the onset of the pandemic–have had to overcome debilitating staffing shortages to treat their patients.

“It’s critical that each of our frontline health care centers have the staffing and the resources needed to navigate this unprecedented public health crisis,” he said. “I am pleased that this funding will help more of our rural hospitals bolster their staffs and better care for their communities.”

Stabenow said in the news release the need for more trained health care professionals has never been greater.

“These funds come at a much-needed time as our small towns respond to the COVID-19 and opioid crises,” she said.

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