Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signs HB200 into law March 22, 2023, with various stakeholders looking on.
Gov. Andy Beshear signs HB200 into law March 22, 2023, with stakeholders looking on. Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities & Kentucky Center for Assisted Living President Betsy Johnson is third from left. 

A new law in Kentucky could serve as a national model to help stem the workforce crisis in nursing homes through public-private partnerships to fund education programs for more nurses and aides. 

The state’s new Healthcare Workforce Collaborative will use part of a $10 million appropriation to offer training scholarships that the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities & Kentucky Center for Assisted Living hopes will create an employment pipeline. Association President Betsy Johnson told McKnights Long-Term Care News on Monday that they specifically lobbied to include nurse aides in the programs funded by the bill. 

“Someone can become a nurse aide right out of high school,” said Johnson, who attended last week’s bill signing with Gov. Andy Beshear (D) last week. “They’re younger so they may not have the resources for training, but we can build a nursing pipeline.”

A recent association survey found that 88% of its members were having some level of staffing shortages with 75% reporting it “difficult to very difficult” to hire new staff. Statewide, nursing homes are at 15% below staffing levels of March 2020. 

Approximately 65% of the $10 million allocated in the workforce law will be used for scholarships to address the “persistent shortage of a broad spectrum of certified and licensed healthcare professionals,” according to the legislative text. The remaining 35% will go toward grants for public universities, community and technical colleges to expand training programs.

Johnson said the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) encouraged the association to ask its members to send letters to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which is considering national programs to achieve similar goals. Federal legislation would build on Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-PA) Better Care Better Jobs Act that McKnights Senior Living reported would create more than 500,000 new direct care jobs. 

Johnson did not know how many members made submissions but said they received a “great response” when they put out their call for comments.  

The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said it has long advocated for “supportive solutions … to help with recruitment and rebuild our workforce.”
“We have been advocating for scholarship programs for long-term care professionals and incentive programs for states and higher learning institutions to help train the next generation of long term caregivers for years through our reform agenda,” the association said in a statement to McKnight’s on Monday.